A century ago, a visionary team of hockey heroes and rebels won the Stanley Cup for Vancouver, and changed our game forever. Join us March 26th as we celebrate a 100-year milestone in our hockey history: the courageous, inspiring story of the Vancouver Millionaires.
At the dawn of the last century, hockey visionaries Frank and Lester Patrick headed West and gambled everything. Great players in the National Hockey Association, they had become frustrated with the slow, grinding game played in the eastern-based league. They sold the family business, and moved to Vancouver with a new vision for hockey that would change our game forever.
In 1912 they founded a new league on the West Coast, built huge new arenas, and revolutionized our game to showcase speed and creativity. They introduced forward passing, the blue line, line changes, delayed penalties, and the penalty shot. They placed numbers on players’ sweaters, introduced the scoring concept of assists and allowed goaltenders to leave their feet to make a save. They created the first playoff system in North American sports, the one we still use today. This was the birth of modern hockey. And it all happened right here.
In March of 1915, Vancouver was a thriving young city of 100,000 people. Fortunes were made and lost in the resource sector. The world was at war; Irving Berlin was on top of the music charts; a trolley from Chilliwack to downtown Vancouver cost 50 cents; and the 10,500-seat Denman Arena, the world's largest ice rink at the time, played host to the first-ever official playoffs for the Stanley Cup. The Pacific Coast Champion Vancouver Millionaires, led by superstar Fred “Cyclone” Taylor, would face off in a best-of-five series against the NHA champion Ottawa Senators.
The Senators were a defensive powerhouse anchored by the legendary Art Ross, and were heavily favoured by hockey experts in the east, who were dismissive of the freewheeling, creative style of hockey played on the West Coast. But in Game One, played under the new western rules, Vancouver’s speed and passing attack was simply too much for the Senators, and Millionaires pulled away with ease, winning by a score of 6-2.
Game Two was played under eastern rules and the Senators did all they could to play to their defensive, physical strengths, including taking several runs at Cyclone Taylor, as they established an early 2-0 lead. But the Patrick brothers coached a patient, counterattacking game and the Millionaires weathered the early Ottawa storm and then piled up goals in the second and third period, eventually winning 8-3.
On March 26, 1915, Game Three was played under western rules and there was simply no stopping the Millionaires. Ottawa could not match Vancouver’s skating and passing attack, and the outcome was never in doubt. The Millionaires destroyed the Senators, by a score of 12-3. They had beaten the best team in the National Hockey Association, had proven themselves the best hockey team in the world, and had won the Stanley Cup for Vancouver. “WORLD CHAMPIONS” shouted the headline in the The Vancouver Daily World.
There was no parade, no on-ice presentation. The Senators, so confident they would easily dispatch the upstart Millionaires, had not even brought the Stanley Cup with them to Vancouver. After the final game, the exhausted and defeated Senators crowded into the Millionaires dressing room to congratulate them. The new style of hockey had beaten the old. It wasn’t even close. The hockey world took notice. And our game was set on a new course that favoured speed, skill and creativity.
On March 26th 2015, one hundred years to the day from that final game , your Vancouver Canucks will proudly wear the Millionaires jersey, to honour those whose pioneer spirit gave birth to the modern game. The game we still play here today.Your 1915 Stanley Cup Champion Vancouver Millionaires:
Hugh Lehman, G; Lloyd Cook, D; Frank Patrick, D; Cyclone Taylor, R (Rover); Mickey McKay, C; Barney Stanley, LW; Frank Nighbor, RW; Jimmy Seaborn spare, Ken Mallen, spare. Captain Si Griffis broke his ankle and could not play in the final. Coaches: Frank Patrick (player/coach); Lester Patrick (bench coach).
Resources: Empire on Ice, by Craig Bowslby, available at Amazon.ca and at the Canucks Team Store. Vancouver Canucks Archives.