Author Craig Bowlsby explores early days of pro hockey in Vancouver
Brothers Frank and Lester Patrick are celebrated for bringing professional ice hockey to the West Coast and for introducing many innovations that define the sport today.
It’s a story that fascinates Vancouver author Craig Bowlsby, who wrote about the game’s early days in his self-published book Empire of Ice: The Rise and Fall of the Pacific Coast Hockey Association, 1911-1926.
Backed by money from the family lumber business, the hockey-playing Patrick brothers founded the Pacific Coast Hockey Association in 1911. As part of the endeavour, they built the first artificial ice arenas in Vancouver and Victoria and recruited top players from other parts of North America.
“This family took all of their money, every cent they had, and poured it into making artificial arenas and stealing away the best players in the world to make the best hockey league that they could make, in order to control it,” Bowlsby told the Straight by phone.
The Vancouver Millionaires, New Westminster Royals, and Victoria Senators helped form the league, which had six teams at its peak. Players like Frederick “Cyclone” Taylor, an early star of the sport, wowed spectators. And, in 1915, the Vancouver Millionaires won the Stanley Cup, the only time a team from the city has done so.
Like many others, Bowlsby argues the Patrick brothers helped modernize professional ice hockey with the Pacific Coast Hockey Association. The brothers are credited with introducing key innovations such as forward passing, numbering players, and creating the blue line.
“They implemented so many new rules that forced the game to improve and to get faster and to reach its potential,” Bowlsby said.
Bowlsby, who published Empire of Ice in September 2012, will share his insights into this era of local hockey history during an upcoming author reading and lecture. The event takes place at the VPL central library [350 West Georgia Street] on Monday (January 21) at 7 p.m. Admission is free.