Lester Patrick’s Victoria Pros stand inside Patrick Arena

Lester Patrick’s Victoria Pros stand inside Patrick Arena

The forward pass forever changed hockey 100 years ago

New book revisits the Patricks’ fight to improve hockey

It was the rule change to rule all rule changes.

A century ago, the innovative brothers Lester and Frank Patrick shaped the modern game of hockey, and they did it in Victoria.

But it wasn’t all rosy. When they opted to allow the forward pass, in the neutral zone only, they were scrutinized by the press and by other leagues. Even players “held a disdain” for the new rule.

Today, the Patricks are heralded for their innovations, which are used in the NHL and ice hockey leagues worldwide. But people are unaware of the staunch criticism they faced. They were told they were going to ruin the game. It’s captured in Craig H. Bowlsby’s new book 1913: The Year They Invented The Future of Hockey.

“The Patricks were always looking for ways to better the flow of the game, not necessarily to increase speed,” Bowlsby says. “They wanted to prevent stoppages. Goalies going down would kill the play, so that was obvious, and they allowed goalies to fall to the ice.”

Thusly they allowed the forward pass. Outside of hockey, the pass had already been adopted by the U.S.A. rugby union, as that sport morphed into football as we know it.

However, forward passing wasn’t accepted widely in hockey until as late as the 1930s.

Bowlsby’s 1913 chronicles not only the backlash Frank and Lester faced from newspapers and their main competition that season, the east’s National Hockey Association (which became the NHL in 1917), it also sheds new light on the brothers’ quarrels with each other. Their first significant disagreement was over the seven-man system.

“Frank tried to implement the six-man unit in 1913 but Lester said ‘no way.’ So when Frank said ‘no offside’ in the centre ice area, Lester had to back down,” Bowlsby said.

It was one of the few areas of the game the PCHA changed after the NHA. Lester refused to drop the seventh man and go to five skaters and a goalie. However, it worked as leverage for Frank to implement the forward pass in 1913-14, which Lester was also cold on. In fact, Bowlsby is almost certain Lester hated the forward pass.

Ironically, Lester relented soon into the 1913-14 season as his Victoria Pros proved the most capable of using the neutral zone pass in the PCHA. With it, they advanced from the PCHA to the 1914 Stanley Cup championship held in Toronto, though they lost to the Toronto Arenas/Blueshirts of the NHA. In a twist of fate, noted hockey historian Prime Minister Stephen Harper has simultaneously released a book this month on the beginnings of pro hockey in Toronto, including the 1914 champion Arenas.

“Frank and Lester both brought in the new ideas, and there was a dynamic between them, a tug of war,” Bowlsby said. “Frank championed some things, Lester others, and they didn’t always agree.”

At times they squabbled through the newspapers.

“Frank stated through The Vancouver Province: ‘there was no question it would be adopted.’ But two days later Lester repudiated that idea,” Bowlsby said.

“Shortly thereafter, (Lester) said in The Province on Dec. 1, 1913: ‘I am not greatly in favour of the new offside rule and will have to be shown where this rule will benefit the game before I will lend my support….’”

1913: The Year They Invented The Future of Hockey is available at Chapters.Indigo.ca.

James Bay to Oak Bay

The brothers Patrick brooded over new ideas, tweaking the game in their minds as much as possible before each season in the Pacific Coast Hockey Association, which they ran from 1911 to 1924.

Some rule changes were sketched out at Frank’s house in Vancouver, while others were debated in the Patrick family house on Michigan Street in James Bay. They implemented them on the artificial ice of the Patrick Arena in Oak Bay. The Patricks continued to tinker with the game until the PCHA folded in 1926, when Lester sold his Victoria Cougars, which became the NHL’s Detroit Cougars (Red Wings).

Picture this

Craig Bowlsby is a Vancouver-based hockey author. He started collecting old hockey photos which led him to 15 years of part-time research and the self-published 2006 book, Knights of Winter. He assembled  1913: The Year They Invented The Future of Hockey, based on the three years of research he put into his mammoth release earlier in 2013, Empire of Ice: The Rise and Fall of the Pacific Coast Hockey Association, 1911-1926.

Tired players

The forward pass sped up the game and ultimately led to another Patrick innovation, or “allowance,” to increase the roster and allow line changes. The same six players used to play the entire game.

Rugged rules

The Canadian Football League didn’t permit a forward pass in the Grey Cup until 1929.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Rebecca Lang of Any Thyme Gardening installed a seed exchange library in front of her home on Beechwood Avenue. (Travis Paterson/News Staff)
Victoria gardeners scramble to create local seed exchanges

Fairfield resident’s seed exchange an instant hit

On Feb. 27, a construction vehicle remained on the site of the former encampment between the Pat Bay Highway and McKenzie Avenue as part a clean-up effort. (Devon Bidal/News Staff)
Encampment between Pat Bay Highway, McKenzie Avenue cleared, all residents relocated

Efforts to disband encampment resumed after January fire

Sooke resident Nathan Hanson popped both his driver’s side tires on a pothole near a construction site on Sooke Road. Hanson said he was following a line of traffic and was just before the 17 Mile Pub when he drove over the pothole. (Photo contributed/Nathan Hanson)
Driver blows two tires on pothole near construction site on Sooke Road

Ministry of Transportation says keeping highways in good condition a priority

Environment Canada has issued a wind warning for Greater Victoria, with winds expected to get up to 70 km/h Friday morning. (Don Denton/Black Press Media)
Wind warning promises blustery Friday for Greater Victoria

Winds up to 70 km/h expected Friday morning

Passengers in rows 13 to 19 on Air Canada Jazz flight 8069 from Vancouver to Victoria Feb. 28 were exposed to a case of COVID-19. (THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette)
COVID-19 exposure found on flight from Vancouver to Victoria

Passengers in rows 13 to 19 on Air Canada Jazz flight 8069 Feb. 28 affected

B.C. Health Minister Adrian Dix and provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry head for the B.C. legislature press theatre to give a daily update on the COVID-19 pandemic, April 6, 2020. (B.C. government)
B.C. nears 300,000 COVID-19 vaccinations, essential workers next

564 new cases, four deaths, no new outbreaks Thursday

Anyone with information on any of these individuals is asked to call 1-800-222-TIPS (8477) or visit the website victoriacrimestoppers.ca for more information.
Greater Victoria Crime Stoppers wanted list for the week of March 2

Greater Victoria Crime Stoppers is seeking the public’s help in locating the… Continue reading

(Black Press Media file photo)
POLL: How’s your butter?

Recent reports have some Canadians giving a second look to one of… Continue reading

Walter Gretzky father of hockey hall-of-famer Wayne Gretzky waves to fans as the Buffalo Sabres play against the Toronto Maple Leafs during third period NHL hockey action in Toronto on Tuesday, Jan. 17, 2017. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette
Walter Gretzky, father of the Great One, dies at 82

Canada’s hockey dad had battled Parkinson’s disease and other health issues

The intersection of Melrose Street and Third Avenue. (ELENA RARDON / ALBERNI VALLEY NEWS)
Suspect in custody after two pedestrians struck in Port Alberni hit and run

RCMP asking for video footage, credit witnesses for quick arrest

(National Emergency Management Agency)
No tsunami risk to B.C. from powerful New Zealand earthquake: officials

An 8.1 magnitude earthquake shook the north of New Zealand Thursday morning

Comox Valley RCMP had access to 20 Street blocked off between Cousins and Choquette avenues as they conducted a raid of a house on the block. Photo by Terry Farrell
Comox Valley RCMP raid Courtenay problem house, several arrests made

Comox Valley RCMP conducted a raid of a problem house on 20th… Continue reading

(AP Photo/Richard Vogel, File)
Pandemic stress, isolation key factors as to why Canadians turned to cannabis, alcohol

Study found that isolation played key role in Canadians’ substance use

A Cowichan Valley mom is wondering why masks haven’t been mandated for elementary schools. (Metro Creative photo)
B.C. mom frustrated by lack of mask mandate for elementary students

“Do we want to wait until we end up like Fraser Health?”

Most Read