Local author and historian Helen Edwards at the site in Oak Bay where the Oak Bay Arena once stood, from 1910 until it burned down in 1929. Edwards’ new book captures the first 100 years of pro hockey in Victoria. (Travis Paterson/News Staff)

Victoria’s first century of pro hockey captured in new book

Rare teams and ‘how not to build an arena,’ treasured in book

Don’t be fooled, Lester Patrick’s role in shaping the modern game of ice hockey from the arena on Cadboro Bay Road near Oak Bay High remains paramount in Victoria hockey history.

But there’s more to Victoria’s first 100 years of pro hockey, and local hockey historian and author Helen Edwards captures it all in her new book, The History of Professional Hockey in Victoria, 1911 to 2011.

In the book Edwards encapsulates every single pro hockey game played in town, starting with the debut of ice hockey in Victoria in the brand new “Oak Bay” Arena on Jan. 2, 1912 as Patrick’s Victoria Senators hosted the New Westminster Royals.

READ MORE: 100 years of hockey in Victoria

There are also stories, and about 3,600 end notes to prove her eight years of fact checking and research.

“When I started the historic newspapers that are digitized now weren’t digitized yet and I was doing this by microfilm and by writing out what I read,” Edwards said.

Having grown up here in Victoria, Edwards first watched Patrick’s minor league Victoria Cougars in the 1950s at the Memorial Arena. Since then, Edwards has always been a writer, the family genealogist, and found a niche with heritage buildings, having published stories on old buildings in newsletters such as the Hallmark Heritage Society.

When Bill Shvetz died in 2011, it clicked that this was the last chance to interview players from the minor pro Western Hockey League’s Cougars of the 1950s and the minor pro WHL Victoria Maple Leafs from the 1964-67. Shvetz was part of the Victoria Maple Leafs which won the WHL’s Lester Patrick Cup in 1966.

READ ALSO: The forward pass forever changed hockey 100 years ago

So Edwards tracked down another player from that team, Bob Barlow, her all time favourite and who she credits for giving this project the early boost it needed.

Barlow will be at a private launch next week with Shvetz’s widow, Gladys, who was also helpful. Edwards also interviewed an alumni from Lester’s 1950s Cougars, Reg Abbot.

“Barlow’s family believed in me when this was starting, I visited them and they gave me all the clippings they had from when Barlow played here two years,” Edwards said. “I got stories and pictures I can’t publish, but I saw them and heard them, from the players whooping it up when they won the 1966 WHL championship.”

The stats are the backbone of Edwards’ book but it also captures forgotten teams, like the 1928 Victoria Cubs, who played in the minor pro Pacific Coast Hockey League from 1928 to 1930. Frank and Lester’s brother Stanley ran the Cubs, but the team ran out of ice when the Oak Bay Arena burned down (though it survived a year as a road team).

Then there is her chapter called “How Not To Build An Arena,” which includes the 19 year run from 1930 until the Memorial Arena was built in 1949. That includes the short-lived Willows horse barn converted to an ice rink. Sadly, it also burned down in the 1930s.

Among the many challenges Helen Edwards faced along the way were incorrect facts from previous books and a lack of response from men who didn’t take her seriously.

“There’s still a [resentment] that I don’t know hockey,” Edwards said. “I’m a girl and I don’t know about hockey. It wasn’t the old guys, they’re awesome. It’s the young(er) guys.”

Nonetheless, she tracked down a who’s who of players and coaches from Victoria’s first century of pro hockey.

Victoria Salmon Kings coach Mark Morrison of the Anaheim Ducks, retired player Taylor Ellington and Mr. Salmon King himself, Ryan Wade, who played the first Kings game and returned as an associate coach until the Kings played the last pro hockey game in Victoria in 2011.

Then there’s a gap. For the next few decades the major junior Cougars filled the town’s need for a hockey team but Edwards’ book is already more than 600 pages.

“I didn’t have time for junior,” she smiled.

That gap, of course, wasn’t the first. But there are also unknown teams that have been lost in the shuffle.

For instance, after Frank and Lester dissolved the Pacific Coast Hockey Associations another semi-pro league showed up in place of the PCHA called the PCHL in 1928.

Edwards book is available online at Friesen Press and at Bolen Books.

reporter@oakbaynews.com


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