Friday, June 3, 2011

2011 Playoffs : Go West Young...

The challenge For Lord Stanley's silverware first occurred in 1893. In early competition, the Stanley Cup remained elusive to clubs west of Winnipeg. In the spring of 1915, history would be made by the Vancouver Millionaires of the Pacific Coast Hockey Association (PCHA). The theme of "Go west young man" didn't only apply to individuals seeking a better life. It was time for the Stanley Cup to explore a new frontier.

The 1915 Stanley Cup featured Vancouver and the Ottawa Senators playing a best-of-five series. Ottawa qualified for the trip out west by defeating the Montreal Wanderers in a two-game, total goals showdown. Both clubs finished the regular season with identical 14-6 records. Backed by Clint Benedict in goal, Ottawa held Montreal to one goal and skated to a four goals to one victory over two games.

The Vancouver Millionaires were PCHA league champions and their 13-4 record earned them the right to advance to the Cup Final Series.

In 1915, the East-West Agreement was put into place by Stanley Cup trustees. This established clear guidelines concerning eligibility and applicable rules/regulations which would be enforced.

The 1915 Stanley Cup Series got underway on March 22nd in Vancouver's Denman Arena. Led by Cyclone Taylor's two goals, the Millionaires took game one by a count of 6-2. Game two was once again dominated by Taylor. Along with teammate Frank Nighbor, both veterans scored hat tricks in Vancouver's 8-3 pasting of the visitors from the nations capital.

On March 27, 1915, news stories of the final game started to filter east across Canada.  Hockey fans in Saskatoon were greeted with the following headline in their edition of The Saskatoon Phoenix, "VANCOUVER WINS STANLEY CUP EASILY - TWELFTH STRAIGHT VICTORY FOR CHAMPIONS - OTTAWA BEATEN 12-3".

Vancouver Millionaires

Game three, played on March 26th, turned into a romp for Vancouver. After twenty-minutes of play, the two teams were locked in a 2-2 tie. The Ottawa goals were scored by Jack Darragh and Eddie Gerard. Both tallies were long shots which beat Vancouver goalie Hugh Lehman.

In period two, the 6,000 fans in attendance were treated to a brilliant offensive display by the home team. As the newspaper account put it, "Vancouver started out like a new team and swept the visitors off their feet."

The scoring star for Vancouver in this contest was Russell "Barney" Stanley. The Paisley, Ontario native played right wing for Vancouver. Later in his career, he would be teamed-up with Eddie Shore on the 1925-26 Edmonton Eskimos (WHL). Against the Ottawa Senators in game three, he potted four goals. Stanley, played part of the 1914-15 campaign with the Edmonton Albertas (ASHL), before being recruited by Frank Patrick in Vancouver.

The other offensive weapons for Vancouver were Mickey MacKay and Frank Nighbor, who produced three-goal efforts. MacKay, in his first season with Vancouver, was the regular season scoring ace. He netted 33 goals in 17 games (44 points). Also, MacKay and Ottawa's Punch Broadbent engaged  in fisticuffs during the third match. "MacKay and Broadbent clashed and exchanged blows before the officials could intervene and chase them to the fence", wrote The Sakatoon Phoenix.

After forty-minutes of action, Ottawa trailed Vancouver 7-2. The first goal in period  three came off the stick of Ottawa native and Senators left winger Leth Graham. It was all-for-not, as Vancouver responded with five more goals.

Stating the obvious, the newspaper observed, "Vancouver gave a wonderful display and the result was never in doubt." Also, they noted, "the play was fast and checking hard."

The newspaper article mentioned that along with Stanley and MacKay, they were joined by Lloyd Cook as recruits, "playing in their first season in professional hockey, were also in the limelight with some sensational play." Cook, was an offensive-defenceman in the PCHA. In 1916-17, with Spokane, he scored 13 goals in 23 games. He returned to Vancouver in 1917-18 and played along side Art Duncan. They were considered one of the best defensive pairings in PCHA history.

The work of veteran players did not go unnoticed in the press, "Taylor, Nighbor and Patrick were always working and had the opposing players beaten at all angles."

In, "Cyclone Taylor - A Hockey Legend", by Eric Whitehead (1977), Taylor commented on the 1915 Vancouver Millionaires.

...that Vancouver team of 1914-15 was the finest in my experience, and I am sure one of the best of all time. Every regular on that team that took us to the Stanley Cup series - Si Griffs, Mickey MacKay, Hughie Lehman, Frank Nighbor, and myself - made the Hockey Hall of Fame.

In 2011, Vancouver fans are once again calling for the Stanley Cup to travel west of Winnipeg and visit the Province of British Columbia. After all, there has been a large gap between visits.

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