Betchy'all didn't know this li'l tid-bit did ya?

Stanley Cup's last victorious visit to Victoria

The Cougars were the last Canadian West Coast team to win hockey's coveted trophy -- 84 years ago

By Andrei Bondoreff, Times ColonistApril 5, 2009

The Stanley Cup headed home with the Victoria Cougars this week in 1925 after the team defeated the Montreal Canadiens. For fans and players alike, luck and superstition seemed to play as important a role in the outcome of the series as teamwork and skill.

"Canadiens Unable to Cope with Terrific Speed of Cougars and Lose World Series," screamed the headline on the sports page of the March 31, 1925 edition of the Victoria Daily Times.

"The Cougars left absolutely no doubt as to which club was best. They skated like fiends, passed the puck like masters, shot like machine guns and their defence was as hard to penetrate as the side of a battleship," the paper wrote.

As well as the Cougars performed, the turning point of the game came as a result of a bit of good fortune.

Victoria had jumped out to an early lead, but play throughout the first period was even. Anxious Cougar fans desperately wanted another goal to put some distance between their team and the Canadiens.

The goal came at the beginning of the second period. Cougar left winger Harold "Gizzy" Hart skated to centre ice and took what appeared to be a harmless approach shot. The puck flew through the air, bounced a metre in front of Montreal goalie Frank Vezina and then skipped past his glove into the net.

The Canadiens came back to score several minutes later. But the Cougars crushed their opponents' morale by scoring twice to close out the second period. In the third, the home team added two more tallies to punctuate their win.

In many respects, it

hadn't been an easy series for the Cougars who, at times, were hindered in their efforts by their own supporters: Fans were not only prone to suffering pangs of defeatism at the smallest setback, but they also had a habit of looking for and finding bad omens during pre-game warm-ups.

Victoria had jumped out to a two-game lead winning the first match 5-2 and the second 3-1. By all appearances, they had a stranglehold on the series and local fans expected their team to sweep the Canadiens. In Game 3, however, the "flying Frenchmen" came back and won 4-2.

After the loss, fans were distraught and "it was thought in some quarters that the Cougars had cracked, that their strenuous campaign had taken its toll on their rugged physiques. This led to the Canadiens being installed as the slight favourites in the betting," the paper wrote.

In Games 1 and 2, the Cougars had dressed and got on the ice first and the result had been victory. In Game 3, not only were the Canadiens first on the ice, but they began practicing on Victoria's net. It was the first time that such a thing had occurred and "fans who believed in hoodoos and other funny fellows predicted disaster for the Cougars." That disaster, in fans eyes, came in defeat that night.

In game four, Victoria dressed quickly and made sure to get on the ice first.

The team's manager, Lester Patrick, was also burdened by fans believing that he was jinxed.

In 1913, he had led Victoria to a world championship. In 1914, he took Victoria to the Stanley Cup again, only to be swept by Toronto. The crushing defeat began a run of 11 consecutive seasons where Patrick "failed to produce a winner."

With his win in 1925, Patrick was glad to finally end talk of a jinx. Adding to the drama of the event, the victory featured some irony: Three players who had played on the Toronto team which had led to the jinx 11 years earlier, were on Patrick's winning team and helped to remove it.

"Holmes, Walker and Foyston have been pardoned. No longer need they carry their heads in shame for having helped defeat Victoria in the 1914 World Series. This year ... they have proved important joints in the backbone of the Victoria team and have atoned for their rash act of 11 years ago," wrote the Daily Times.

One of the men, "Happy" Holmes saw himself as a lucky charm, stating that "whenever he changed his associations, he always played with the world's champions."

The year he turned professional in 1914 with Toronto, his team won the Stanley Cup. He then played for Seattle where he won his second cup. Holmes then returned to Toronto and won the cup again. Then he went back to Seattle and won another cup there before coming to Victoria and working his magic.

After 1925, teams from the Canadian West Coast seemed to run out of luck completely because fans from Victoria and Vancouver would never experience what it would feel like for one of their teams to win a Stanley Cup again.

Copyright (c) The Victoria Times Colonist

The Victoria Cougars are still a hockey team, but they are juniors now and have been since I can remember. www.victoriacougars.com/