If I had told someone in 1915 that hockey players would become millionaires, I would probably have been punched in the face, taken to the alley behind East Hastings Street to get more beatings, and then hung over the Capilano Suspension Bridge near North Vancouver. No one back then would ever think of anybody let alone a hockey player earning millions of dollars a season.
Money in those days was real tight. However, the Patrick Empire led by father Joe and sons Frank and Lester Patrick found out the hard how difficult it was to introduce professional hockey in the West Coast. They had risked everything to construct new buildings called hockey arenas in Vancouver (Denman Arena) and Victoria (Patrick Arena), gambled on forming a new league of their own called the Pacific Coast Hockey League (PCHA – backed by the Patrick lumber fortune), and to be able to attract the best players to make the migration from Montreal, Ottawa or Toronto to trek over to the West Coast and play in new hockey markets like Vancouver, Victoria, New Westminster, Portland, Spokane and Seattle. One of those teams, the Vancouver Millionaires was first formed 1911.
A wonderful history lesson about the Millionaires can be seen here:
With the exception of goaltenders today, imagine playing a full game without spares. This is what players had to deal with one hundred years ago. If they saw how petty and spoiled some of the players are today, they would be rolling in their graves or rise from the dead and give them a lickin’. The Millionaires roster was filled with the toughest players in the young league, including Fred “Cyclone” Taylor. He was aptly named Cyclone because of his fast skating abilities, kind of like Pavel Bure. But he was also tough as nails because he was once arrested for punching a referee in 1908, something Tiger Williams might do in the heat of battle.
After The National Hockey Association (NHA) and the PCHA agreed to have their league champions compete for the Stanley Cup in 1914-15, Cyclone Taylor led the Millionaires to their one and only Stanley Cup victory, sweeping the Ottawa Senators in three games by a combined score of 26-8.
Sadly, the Millionaires and the PCHA would be short-lived. Despite winning six PCHA championships, Vancouver would lose the Stanley Cup final three times after 1915. The team changed their name to the Maroons in 1922. By 1924, the team & PCHA was merged into another league, the Western Canada Hockey League (renamed the Western Hockey League) spelling the end of the Pacific Coast. Two years later, the WHL and the Millionaires/Maroons club folded. Vancouver wouldn’t reappear again in the big leagues until 1970.
History Lessons Learned
The West Coast is certainly rich in hockey tradition. How fitting that the Canucks are honouring the Millionaires for the March 16 matchup against the Detroit Red Wings – a team that was founded oddly enough by the expansion Detroit franchise that bought the PCHA/WHL-defunct Victoria Cougars and their players. If you get past the fact that the Red Wings are ahead of the Canucks by 11 in the Stanley Cup count, tonight’s game should be a good one.