Thursday, June 2, 2011

1925: Victoria Cougars bring home the Stanley Cup

This photo of the 1924-25 Victoria Cougars is listed with a $1,000 opening bid at a Classic Collectibles auction.  

CBC Radio's On the Island host Gregor Craigie interviews Tom Hawthorn about the glories of the Victoria Cougars, Stanley Cup champions in 1925:

In 1925, Victoria was gripped by hockey fever. The Montreal Canadiens were in town to battle for the Stanley Cup. Fans began lining up at a ticket office on View Street at 3 a.m.

The “rush for pasteboards,” a newspaper reported, resulted in “fights, fainting scenes, attacks upon ticket sellers, near smashing of windows, and other things.”

The Cougars played out of Patrick Arena along the streetcar line on Cadboro Bay Road in Oak Bay. The 4,000-seat building was home to such stars as Jack Walker, Frank Foyston, and goaltender Hap Holmes. The top player was square-jawed Frank Fredrickson, a gifted scorer who had survived the sinking of his troop ship during the First World War. He won an Olympic gold medal with his hometown Winnipeg Falcons, a squad of military veterans of Icelandic heritage. Though born in Winnipeg, Frank did not learn English until entering school at age six. His parents only spoke Icelandic at home.

Cougars manager Lester Patrick was a hockey genius, whose many innovations are today’s fundamentals.He introduced the blue line, forward passing, substitutions during play.

Those five Cougars have all been inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame.

Victoria beat Montreal three games to one to claim the Stanley Cup. “The skated like fiends,” reported the Victoria Daily Times, “passed the puck like masters, shot like machine-guns, and their defence was as hard to penetrate as the side of a battleship.”

A jubilant mayor presented the players with engraved watches at a victory banquet.

The cup itself, in those days, a bowl atop a modest base, was placed on display at a downtown jewelry. Later, Patrick kept it at his Oak Bay home. His two mischievous boys, Muzz and Lynn, used a nail to scratch their names on the inside of the bowl. They later both had their names engraved on the Cup in the usual fashion.

The Cougars lost the Cup the following season to the Montreal Maroon, the last time a non-NHL team challenged for the storied trophy. A few weeks later, Patrick sold the team to business interests in Detroit. The Detroit Cougars became the Detroit Falcons before becoming the Detroit Red Wings.

For decades, the city’s greatest sporting triumph went unheralded. In 2001, a cairn was unveiled on Cadboro Bay Road outside Oak Bay High. Across the street, where now stand two modest apartment blocks, a Victoria team once won the Stanley Cup.

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