Hockey Central

The Pacific Coast Hockey Association

Dreams ... ambition ... power ... all played a part in the building of the Pacific Coast Hockey Association. Lester and Frank Patrick realized their dreams when father Joseph Patrick, a millionaire lumberman, retired after having successfully moved his business from Quebec to British Columbia. Using their father’s financial support, the Patrick brothers announced the formation of the PCHA at the Hotel Vancouver on December 7, 1911. At that meeting Frank Patrick drafted a constitution that was similar to the eastern-based National Hockey Association. The playing rules, including the use of seven-man hockey, were adopted by the founders of the PCHA. W.P. Irving, a well-known executive of the Ontario Hockey Association, was appointed as the first president. Three franchises, Vancouver, Victoria and New Westminster, were granted for the initial PCHA season. The Vancouver Millionaires chose the uniform colors of maroon and white. Victoria Aristocrats chose red, white and blue and the New Westminster Royals were clad in orange and black attire.

Lester Patrick probably will go down in the annals of hockey history as one of the most innovative and shrewd individuals to be associated with the game. Aptly nicknamed “the Silver Fox,” Lester Patrick contributed deeply to the improvement and evolution of professional hockey on every level. He was a player, playing every position from defense to rover to goalie. When the challenge presented itself, he would take on the extra duties of coaching, managing and operating the Victoria franchise. His ultimate ambition was to manage his own team and his own league. That dream became a reality with the formation of the Pacific Coast Hockey Association.

Frank Patrick was less famous than his brother. However, Frank probably would be considered the main architect and brains behind the formation of the PCHA and the direction that the league would take when confronting the National Hockey Association. Frank proposed some 20 rules that became part of the National Hockey League rule book. The multi-talented Patrick was not only the president of the PCHA for many years, he also was a star defenseman, coach, manager and owner of the Vancouver franchise. In 1926, he also was instrumental in engineering the biggest hockey deal to that time when he sold the entire Western Hockey League to eastern interests in New York, Detroit and Chicago for the first big expansion of the NHL to the United States.

The showcase for the Pacific Coast Hockey Association was to be a beautiful new ice arena located in Vancouver. The Georgia Street site, built for a princely sum of $175,000, was the largest ice arena in Canada at that time with a seating capacity of 10,000. The artificial ice surface measured 200 ’ x 85 ’ and was the first in Canada. Only New York’s Madison Square Garden surpassed the Vancouver arena in size. Small by comparison, the Victoria ice arena would seat a capacity crowd of 4,000. New Westminster agreed to play all of its home games in Vancouver in 1911-12 as the Royal City Arena wouldn’t be ready until the following season. To compete with the Eastern Canadian teams, the Patricks realized that, to gain major-league recognition, large and expensive ice arenas were a fact of life.

The Patrick brothers’ major concern was finding high-caliber players to fill out the rosters for the three West Coast teams. Having played a number of years in eastern pro leagues, Frank and Lester acknowledged that the best place to plan their player raids would be the talent-rich National Hockey Association. Having played previously in Renfrew, Lester Patrick lured ex-teammates Bobby Rowe and Bert Lindsay, as well as Renfrew’s Don Smith, to the West Coast. Patrick supplemented his Renfrew connection with Tom Dunderdale from the Quebec Bulldogs, Skinner Poulin from the Canadiens and Walter Smaill from the Montreal Wanderers. In fact, the complete starting lineup for the Aristocrats comprised ex-NHA veterans. Frank Patrick’s septet was headed by ex-Canadiens and Renfrew star Newsy Lalonde. New Westminster’s playing coach Jimmy Gardner, formerly with the Wanderers, enticed Ernie Johnson away from the Montreal team. Ken Mallen joined the Royals from Quebec and minding the nets was Ontario Professional Hockey League veteran Hugh Lehman.

The initial Pacific Coast Hockey Association season opened on January 2, 1912 in Victoria. At the 4,000-seat Victoria arena, 2,500 fans turned out to watch the Aristocrats take on the New Westminster Royals. Ran McDonald of the Royals had the honor of netting the first goal in PCHA history. McDonald, with four goals, paced the Royals to an 8-3 victory. The dubious distinction of first league penalty went to Don Smith of Victoria. Many of the league players had volunteered their services as on-ice officials. Vancouver’s Tom Phillips acted as the referee. Frank Patrick showed his offensive prowess when he scored a record (for defensemen) six goals against New Westminster on March 5 as the Millionaires walloped the Royals 10-6. Frank would end the season as the highest scoring defenseman with 24 goals. The Millionaires’ Newsy Lalonde, in his first and only PCHA season, was not only the scoring champ with 27 goals but was also the PCHA badman with 60 penalty minutes.

The New Westminster team proved to be the class of the initial PCHA season. Big stars for the Royals were playing coach Jimmy Gardner, Harry Hyland, Ran McDonald and Ken Mallen. Paced by Hyland’s 26 goals, the Royals clinched the league championship on March 19 with a 7-5 victory over the Millionaires. The two teams were in a dead heat for first place until the Royals won their final two games and the Vancouver team closed off the season with a two-game losing streak. The Royals finished with a 9-6 record, Vancouver with seven wins and eight losses. Victoria came in last. By virtue of their first-place finish, the New Westminster Royals were declared PCHA champions. The league did not yet have any playoffs. This format would remain in effect until the 1917-18 season.

The Pacific Coast Hockey Association began season number two by replacing W.P. Irving as president. Taking over the head duties was C.E. Doherty of New Westminster. Seeking to improve the quality of play, the PCHA decided to step up its efforts in raiding the National Hockey Association. The NHA’s Quebec franchise was particularly hard-hit with the loss of three players. Jack McDonald moved to Vancouver with Goldie Prodgers going to Victoria and Eddie Oatman heading for New Westminster. To give the league a better balance in talent, Ernie “Moose” Johnson moved to New Westminster and Frank “Cyclone” Taylor made his PCHA debut with the Millionaires. Taylor, playing the rover position in seven-man hockey, would prove to be the greatest individual player in PCHA history as witnessed by his 160 goals in 135 games.

Other new players to make an impact in the PCHA’s second year would be Bob Genge at Victoria and Charlie Tobin with the Royals. The only major losses for the league in 1912 came when Harry Hyland returned to the NHA Montreal Wanderers and Newsy Lalonde returned to the Canadiens. New Westminster still had problems with the construction of its arena. It was decided to play the Royals’ home games at the Vancouver arena, the same as the previous year. However, for a change, the Royals decided to take some of their home games on the road. The last-place Royals, along with the Millionaires, played their last two games in Calgary and Regina on March 17 and 18. It proved be a huge success for the lowly Royals as they whipped the Vancouver septet by scores of 11-7 and 10-6. Giving the PCHA fans some added entertainment, a series of speed skating races were held at the Vancouver arena on January 14. In the preliminaries, Si Griffis showed his speed by edging Ernie Johnson, and Ken Mallen, surprisingly enough, got the better of Cyclone Taylor. Mallen won the trophy by outdistancing Si Griffis. On February 15, the PCHA tried the six-man game. The loss of the rover position did not win approval by the fans in attendance. (This experiment was set aside until the PCHA adopted an interlocking schedule with the Western Canada Hockey League in 1922-23.) Victoria won the league crown by defeating New Westminster 1-0 on March 7 to finish with a record of 10 wins and five losses. Victoria’s Tom Dunderdale was scoring champ with 29 points, 24 of them goals.

The Quebec Bulldogs, NHA and Stanley Cup champs, decided to accept the challenge from the PCHA for an exhibition series and the Cup champs traveled to the West Coast. Because of the differences in the east-west rules, it was decided to play games one and three with seven-man hockey. Game two would enforce the six-man rules. Appropriately enough, Victoria won games one and three by scores of 7-5 and 6-1. Quebec won the middle affair 6-3. Leading scorers for the series were Lester Patrick of Victoria and Quebec’s Tommy Smith with four goals each. (The Stanley Cup was not at stake during this series.)

Frank Patrick made his debut as PCHA president to start the 1913-14 season. He would retain that position until the demise of the league in 1923-24. This season brought about the invention of the blue line. As the PCHA rink dimensions were 200 ’ x 85 ’ , Frank Patrick decided to divide the ice surface into three playing zones. The two blue lines were to be 67 feet apart, giving the rink approximately three equal playing areas. Also, for the first time, the forward pass would be allowed in the neutral zone. New eastern imports to appear on the scene this year were: Frank Nighbor from Toronto and Albert “Dubbie” Kerr who had sat out the previous season in Ottawa. Former Canadien Didier “Cannonball” Pitre also made his PCHA debut in Vancouver. Unfortunately, “the Pembroke Peach,” Frank Nighbor, broke his hand and was out of the Millionaires’ lineup until January 27. Victoria would have to do without the services of Lester Patrick until January 23. Patrick broke his arm in the preseason. By coincidence, Victoria was in last place with a 4-5 record when Lester returned to action. With their coach and defenseman back, the Aristocrats took off in the standings with a six-game winning streak to finish the season in first place. However, the first sign of financial problems lurked around the corner. It was estimated that the New Westminster franchise had lost between $4,000 and $9,000 during the year. It was decided at the end of the season to transfer the troubled franchise. Although outscored by Tom Dunderdale 23-18, Cyclone Taylor managed to capture his first PCHA scoring title by virtue of having more assists, 14-3. Taylor finished with 32 points. Dubbie Kerr finished a close second with 31 points.

Victoria traveled east to play the NHA’s Toronto Blueshirts to determine hockey’s champion for the year. The PCHA representatives forgot one minor detail, however. They had overlooked the formality of submitting a formal challenge for the Stanley Cup and were not officially recognized as qualified challengers by the Stanley Cup trustees. Any potential dispute as to Victoria’s right to claim the Cup was eliminated in a three-game sweep by the Blueshirts. The Patricks must have had a keen eye for talent, as Toronto stars Jack Walker, Cully Wilson and Frank Foyston eventually would make their way to the West Coast.

President Patrick brought in some more innovations for the 1914-15 season. The league adopted the National Hockey Association’s idea of having the players’ numbers on the backs of the uniforms. It was thought that it would be easier for the fans to identify the individual players. Also, to prevent some of the rough hockey of the past two years, bodychecking was prohibited within 10 feet of the boards. The New Westminster franchise was transferred to Portland and renamed the Rosebuds. For the first time, an American-based team would be eligible to compete for the Stanley Cup. Pete Muldoon took over as coach of the Portland team. The first trade of the PCHA saw Hugh Lehman and Ken Mallen transfer to Vancouver with Fred Harris moving to Portland. It was a tough year for Victoria’s Tom Dunderdale. First, Dunderdale refused to play until he was offered a better contract. Threatened with suspension, the future Hall of Famer returned. Then, on December 11, 1914, Dunderdale suffered the embarrassment of scoring against his own goaltender, Bert Lindsay. Later in the game, he made amends by putting the puck behind Vancouver goalie Hugh Lehman. The Aristocrats lost 5-3. On the subject of embarrassing moments, on February 12, 1915 at Victoria, Frank Patrick returned to the Vancouver lineup. Forgetting to take off his skate guards, he took to the ice and proceeded to land face first, much to the delight of the partisan Victoria crowd. Future Hall of Famer Mickey MacKay made his debut in a Vancouver uniform, having played the previous season at Grand Forks, British Columbia in the Boundary League. Mickey would lead the PCHA in goal-scoring with 33. However, teammate Cyclone Taylor, with 23 goals and 22 assists for 45 points, would edge out MacKay for the scoring title by one point. Vancouver ended the season with a six-game winning streak to clinch the PCHA title with a 13-4 record. Unfortunately, during the last game, Vancouver captain Si Griffis broke his leg and would miss the upcoming Stanley Cup series. Undaunted by the loss of their captain, the Millionaires awaited the arrival of the Ottawa Senators. Alternating the east-west rules, Vancouver won the three-game series 3-0 by scores of 6-2, 8-3 and 12-3. The powerful Vancouver attack was led by the trio of Cyclone Taylor, Frank Nighbor and Mickey MacKay. Cyclone led the series scorers with seven markers. For the very first time the Pacific Coast Hockey Association could lay claim to the coveted Stanley Cup!

The 1915-16 season marked a decided step up in the raiding activities of the PCHA. Expanding to four teams, President Patrick saw the need for extra quality players from the NHA. The newly formed Seattle Metropolitans secured the services of Toronto stars Jack Walker, Frank Foyston, Cully Wilson, Ed Carpenter and Harry “Hap” Holmes. The NHA retaliated by declaring that all PCHA players were free agents. Skinner Poulin, Frank Nighbor, Bert Lindsay and Walter Smaill all headed back to the NHA. Pete Muldoon took over as coach at Seattle. Edward Savage moved into Portland. The red, white and green-clad Metropolitans, with captain Frank Foyston as their leader, were the second U.S.-based team with a chance to win the Stanley Cup but it was Portland that outdistanced the other three teams to finish with a 13-5 record. Cyclone Taylor won another scoring title with 22 goals and 13 assists. Seattle’s Bernie Morris paced the league with 23 goals. Portland’s main strength was its superior defensive strategy. Ernie Johnson and Del Irvine led the defensive charge and Tommy Murray, a veteran goalie from Manitoba senior hockey circles, was the top netminder. The Portland Rosebuds would become the first team based in the United States to hold the distinction of actually playing for the Stanley Cup. President Patrick gave the Rosebuds permission to play the NHA in the championship series, however, because of his extreme dislike for NHA president Emmitt Quinn, Frank vowed that he would not be involved in any negotiations. According to the rules, Patrick issued an informal challenge to the Stanley trustees on behalf of Portland. The Rosebuds traveled to Montreal for the best-of-five series against les Canadiens. Once again using alternating east-west rules, the Habs squeaked out a 3-2 decision, winning the final game 2-1 on a goal by Goldie Prodgers.

The season of 1916-17 marked another franchise shift for the PCHA. Drawing small crowds, as most last-place teams do, the Aristocrats moved to Spokane, Washington to become the Canaries. Suddenly the PCHA shifted its power base to the United States, with Vancouver as the only Canadian franchise. Refusing to stand pat, the defending league champion Rosebuds added Manitoba senior hockey veterans Dick Irvin, Clem Loughlin and Stan Marples to their lineup.

Despite the loss of their superstar, Cyclone Taylor (out with an appendix operation until January 27), the Millionaires managed to hang on to second place in the standings. Playing only 12 games, Taylor managed to tally 14 goals and 15 assists. However, he was deprived of another scoring championship. Bernie Morris of the Metropolitans set a league record with 54 points, including 37 goals. The Millionaires’ Gordon Roberts led all goal scorers with a league record 43. Seattle defeated Vancouver 7-4 on December 30 and first place was theirs to keep for the remainder of the year. They finished with 16 wins and eight losses. The move to Spokane proved to be another failure. Attendance was very poor for the ex-Victoria franchise. The final game between the Canaries and Vancouver was canceled and the Spokane franchise folded. The Stanley Cup opened in Seattle with the Montreal Canadiens traveling west. The Stanley Cup was no longer a challenge trophy nor was it held by the champion team of the Dominion of Canada.

Confusion started the Cup series as the Canadiens were forced to drop Reg Noble from their lineup. It was concluded that Noble played with too many teams during the season to be eligible, including playing for Ottawa during the playoffs. Alternating east-west rules didn’t seem to bother the Metropolitans. Led by Bernie Morris, Seattle trashed the Canadiens three games to one after dropping the first game. Seattle won the final match 9-1 as Morris pumped in six goals. His 14 goals in the four-game series was the most scored since the glory days of Frank McGee and the Ottawa Silver Seven.

To begin the 1917-18 season, President Patrick suspended the Spokane franchise, thus reducing the PCHA membership to three. However, for the first time, it was decided that the first- and second-place teams during the regular schedule would play a two-game total-goals playoff series for the PCHA championship. In a rule change, it was decided that there would be no substitutions for penalized players until three minutes had elapsed. More differences of opinion came up once again between the PCHA and NHA. NHA officials came to the conclusion that Gordon Roberts had been loaned to the Millionaires from the Wanderers the previous season. Needless to say, Frank Patrick didn’t take this allegation too seriously. Roberts stayed on the West Coast, shifting his talents to Seattle. The league was very concerned about the lack of able-bodied hockey players due to World War I. They were hoping that the military would allow the players to use the hockey season as 'basic training’ for military service. League stars such as Dick Irvin, Sibby Nichols and Art Duncan had enlisted already in the Canadian military. Stalwarts such as Ken Mallen and Frank Patrick retired (though Patrick would maintain all his management roles), leaving a huge gap in the PCHA team rosters. However, the league managed, via the suspension of the Spokane franchise, to put together three competitive teams. Seattle finished in first place with an 11-7 record. Close behind at 9-9 was Vancouver.

Once again, Cyclone Taylor was the main scoring threat. The Vancouver rover topped the league in scoring with 32 goals and 11 assists. Because of its first-place finish, Seattle decided to play the first game of the playoffs in Vancouver and the Millionaires held on for a 2-2 tie. Two nights later, in Seattle, Barney Stanley scored the winner for Vancouver in a 1-0 shutout. For the first time, the PCHA championship was not claimed by the team finishing first in the regular-season standings. The Millionaires traveled east to take on the new National Hockey League champions from Toronto in a best-of-five series. Toronto prevailed, winning the fifth game 2-1 on a goal by Corbett Denneny.

To begin the 1918-19 season, Frank Patrick was elected for his sixth consecutive term as president of the PCHA. The Portland Rosebuds franchise was suspended. Poor attendance, once again, was the determining factor. (The Portland team would resurface in 1925-26 when the Regina Capitals moved to the Oregon city.) Victoria, out of action for the past three years, rejoined the league this season. They adopted their previous name, the Aristocrats, with Lester Patrick returning as coach. On the player movement scene, Art Duncan returned to the Vancouver lineup from overseas with the Military Cross. Also, Harry “Hap” Holmes left the Stanley Cup champs in Toronto for an extended stay with the Metropolitans. Manitoba native and PCHA tough guy Cully Wilson made his presence felt. Cully seemed to take a particular dislike to the Millionaires uniforms. On January 27, Wilson suffered a broken nose in a bout of fisticuffs with Vancouver’s Lloyd Cook. Undaunted, he returned one game later. However, Wilson’s future in the PCHA was clouded on February 26, 1919 when he nailed Millionaires star Mickey MacKay with a vicious cross-check that resulted in a compound fracture to Mickey’s jaw. Wilson was assessed a $50 fine and a match penalty. MacKay was gone for the rest of the year and was also absent from the PCHA for all of the 1919-20 season. Despite the loss of their star player, Vancouver defeated Victoria in the last two games of the season to take first place by one point over Seattle. Cyclone Taylor captured his last PCHA scoring title with 23 goals and 11 assists. First-place Vancouver decided to play the first game of the finals at Seattle. Si Griffis came out of retirement to replace Mickey MacKay. Lloyd Cook moved up to rover and Griffis replaced Cook on defense.

The decision to open the playoffs in Seattle proved to be a mistake by Vancouver. Led by Frank Foyston’s three goals, the Mets trashed the Millionaires by a 6-1 score. Two nights later Vancouver prevailed 4-1 but the first-game pounding proved to be too much as Seattle won the final series seven goals to five. The Montreal Canadiens traveled west to meet the PCHA champs. Alternating east-west rules were still in effect.