Saturday, June 4, 2011

A Little Vancouver History

by J. Scott Moore

Hockey Hall of Fame
This isn't the first time Vancouver has played for the Stanley Cup.  They were in the hunt in 1982 and 1994, as the Canucks.  But what about before the Canucks?

In 1917-18 the Vancouver Millionaires faced the Toronto Arenas in a best of five series.  The first four games were split and Toronto won the fifth game and the Cup.

I believe it was a much smaller cup at that time.

But Vancouver wasn't in the NHL, they were in the Pacific Coast Hockey Association (PCHA) along with Seattle, Portland (later Victoria) and the recently departed Spokane.

Vancouver's star player was one Fred "Cyclone" Taylor who liked to boast that he once skated backwards through the whole Ottawa team and scored a goal.  Taylor once played for the Renfrew Creamery Kings, so I would say the Millionaires was a step up.

It's amusing that a team would be named the Millionaires when the players certainly were nothing of the sort.  In fact in the Montreal team was sold for $11,000 around this time.

In the playoffs of this era the format was a little different, to say the least.  Two games and team with the most total goals across those two games, wins.  Bizarre.

The 1918-19 season saw Seattle win the PCHA, beating Vancouver in that bizarre format, 7-5.  That's goals, remember?

The 1919-20 season again matched up 1st place Seattle and 2nd place Vancouver for the chance to play the NHL champion Ottawa Senators for the Stanley Cup.  Once again Seattle prevailed in the two game format with a 7-3 victory.

It's interesting to note that Seattle's red, white and green uniforms were too similar to Ottawa's red, white and black uniforms for every one's comfort.  So the Senators agree to change to white sweaters.  Hmmm, beginning of the home whites tradition we all pine for these days?

The 1920-21 season again saw Seattle and Vancouver matched up in the two game playoff duel for the right to play for the Cup.  This time the Millionaires badly beat Seattle 13-2.  In the east Ottawa was once again the champs and this match with the Millionaires attracted a record 11,000 fans to the first game.  The teams split the first four games and once again Vancouver was denied the cup in the fifth and deciding game.

The 1921-22 season saw a lot of change.  The PCHA introduced the penalty shot and had a new competitor in the west, the Western Canada Hockey League.  Seattle finished first in the PCHA but lost the playoff to Vancouver, 2-0, (that's still goals, by the way).  Regina from the new league challenged Vancouver for the right to represent the West in the battle for the Stanley Cup.  Vancouver prevailed and headed east to play Toronto for the Cup.  Toronto was now known as the St. Patricks and again the series went to game five.  Doesn't that sound odd?  Toronto prevailed and once again Vancouver went home as the forgotten runner-up.

1922-23 saw Vancouver finish first in the league and advance through the playoff.  This time Ottawa traveled west to take on Vancouver, eliminating them and then dispensing with the WCHL Edmonton team as well to win the Cup.

The 1923-24 season again saw Vancouver advance through the playoff of the PCHA and Calgary won the WCHL.  Both teams traveled east to face Montreal for the Cup.  Montreal beat both teams to hoist the cup.  Did they "hoist" it then?  I don't know.

The next two seasons were nothing but turmoil for both of the western leagues and in short order there was nothing left of either league.  Vancouver did not appear in the playoffs in either year.

Now I must admit that I might have tricked you a little bit, Vancouver did win the Stanley Cup in 1915 against Ottawa.  However, that league was then known as the NHA, not the NHL.  It's the one and only Cup win for the city of Vancouver...1915, that's almost a hundred years ago...
Source: The Complete Encyclopedia of Hockey edited by Zander Hollander and Hal Bock, 1974, Prentice-Hall


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