Remembering when the Victoria Aristocrats won the ‘World’s Ice Hockey Championship’ in 1913
The team beat the Quebec Bulldogs, but were denied the Stanley Cup
The 1913 Victoria Aristocrats hockey team, which won the ‘world championship’ over the Stanley Cup champion Quebec Bulldogs.
It looks like the Vancouver Canucks aren’t going to win the Stanley Cup this year. Again.
This sorry state of affairs means it’s been 99 years since a team from Vancouver — the Millionaires — won Vancouver’s one and only Stanley Cup in 1915.
The Millionaires were also the first B.C. team to win the cup. But there should be an asterisk beside that stat, because on March 29, 1913, the Victoria Aristocrats beat the Quebec Bulldogs of Quebec City to win the “World’s Ice Hockey Championship.”
The problem was, the easterners refused to bring the Stanley Cup out west for the three-game series, which was held in Victoria. So Quebec went down in the history books as Stanley Cup champions, and the Aristocrats are all but forgotten.
How did this odd state of affairs come about? Because in 1913 the National Hockey League didn’t exist, and the Stanley Cup was a “Challenge Cup” competition between teams across Canada.
The Bulldogs were the powerhouse of the National Hockey Association, with three future Hall of Famers — centre Joe Malone, defenceman Joe Hall and goalie Paddy Moran. They had won the 1912 Stanley Cup, and a year later won the NHA title.
They were then challenged by the Sydney Millionaires of the Maritime Professional Hockey League, but it wasn’t much of a challenge: the Bulldogs thumped Sydney 14-3 and 6-2 to claim the 1913 Stanley Cup.
Lester Patrick, however, had plans. Patrick had founded the Pacific Coast Hockey Association with his brother Frank in 1911, with teams in Vancouver, Victoria and New Westminster. The Patricks had lured many eastern stars to the west coast, such as former Bulldog Tommy Dunderdale, and challenged Quebec to come out west.
Quebec said it would only accept the Stanley Cup challenge if the games were played on its home ice. Patrick declined, probably because he wanted the gate receipts from a series in his own building. (Players travelled by train in 1913, so games in both cities weren’t financially feasible.)
Quebec agreed to come west for an “exhibition” series, no doubt to earn some extra money (there were only 20 games in the NHA season). But they left the cup back east.
There were some quirks in the series. In the PCHA, there were seven players allowed on the ice; in the NHA there were six. So the first game was played with seven players, the second game with six, and the third was split between the two.
Victoria drew first blood, beating Quebec 7-5 on March 24. But it was close: Quebec led 5-4 before Victoria rallied to score three straight goals.
Game 2 was played under eastern rules, and the Bulldogs dominated, beating the Aristocrats 6-3. Both games were played at a “whirlwind” pace that left the players exhausted at the end of the game — in 1913, players stayed on the ice for the entire 60 minutes.
Quebec won the coin toss in the deciding game and elected to start off with the six-man rules. But the Aristocrats surprised them by jumping to a 4-0 lead behind the stickhandling of Lester Patrick and the soft hands of Dunderdale, who scored two goals. The final score was 6-1 for Victoria, and 4,000 fans descended on to the ice to mob the home team.
Quebec blamed its collapse on the 5,000-kilometre-long train journey across the country, which Bulldogs manager M.J. Quinn said at the time left the team “a little off colour.” He also said the Bulldogs had trouble adapting to the seven-man game. But he admitted the Aristocrats had been the better team in the finale: “Last night it would have made no difference, six, seven or eight man hockey, we were played right off our feet.”
The Aristocrats travelled to Toronto to challenge for the 1914 Stanley Cup, but lost. The team changed its name to the Victoria Cougars and finally won the Stanley Cup in 1925.
Two members of the Aristocrats team that should have won the Stanley Cup are in the Hockey Hall of Fame: Lester Patrick and Tommy Dunderdale. The City of Victoria made its own trophy for the “world champion” Aristocrats, which is now in the collection of the B.C. Sports Hall of Fame.
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