The Regina Capitals

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CraigBaird

Did you know that Regina has won the Stanley Cup several times including in 2014-15? Well, it wasn’t actually Regina, but it was a team that relocated from Regina, the Chicago Black Hawks.

That Blackhawks team would have their start thanks to a small team from Regina, Saskatchewan called the Regina Capitals, sort of.

Regina has had a long history of hockey, with its most famous team being the Regina Pats, who were formed in 1917 and continue to play today as the oldest major junior hockey franchise in the world.

As for the Regina Capitals, named because Regina is the capital of Saskatchewan, they would join the Western Canada Professional League in 1921. As soon as the club was formed, the team got down to work to build a competitive roster. The Victoria Daily Times would report quote:

“Wesley Champ, owner of the Regina Capitals, the newest entry into the Western Canada Professional League, is in communication with three players of the Ottawa Senator with a view to having them come out here this winter.”

As part of their agreement for joining the league, the Regina club had to agree not to take any players from Ottawa, which had claims over the area. The Daily Times reported quote:

“There are a lot of other clubs in organized hockey that would like to hook on to some of the Senators, but agreements must be respected.”

On Nov. 24, 1921, Champ was hard at work building his team, signing Bill Laird, John Henry, George Hay and Percy Traub. Of those players, Hay would go on to the Hockey Hall of Fame. His signing was a major stroke of success for Champ as Hay had 32 points in 25 games during that first season and 152 points in 130 games in his time with the team.

He would also negotiate with the Ottawa Senators to acquire Jack McKell, Morley Bruce and Leth Graham. None of the three players would play for Regina.

The Leader-Post would report quote:

“Mr. Champ is anxious to have all his men signed by Saturday night so that he can send the contracts to Calgary with President Richardson.”

Leo Dandurand, manager of the Montreal Canadiens, and Frank Patrick, president of the Pacific Coast League, would offer help for any positions the Capitals needed to be filled.

Things got off to a bit of a rough start due to the fact there was no ice in Regina, resulting in the team only getting to accomplish one practice before heading out to face the powerhouse Edmonton Eskimos. The Edmonton Journal reported quote:

“Wes Champ, owner of the Regina franchise, stated before the game that the Eskimos were a nice team and went on to explain that the lack of practice would show against his troupe when they stepped on the ice at the Arena.”

The club would generate a lot of interest in the city. For one game at the end of December against Calgary, tickets were put on sale and nearly all the tickets were selling quickly. The Regina Leader Post reported quote:

“Conversation with the various places where tickets are sold last night elicited the information that the demand for tickets had been the keenest seen in many months.”

The club would also pick up three new players in December, Dick Irvin, Spunk Sparrow and Charley McVeigh. Two of the players would have an immediate impact. Sparrow would record 12 points in 14 games, while Irvin would record three goals in four games in the playoffs. Irvin for his part would eventually find his way into the Hockey Hall of Fame.

McVeigh would not play for the team that first season but would record 12 points in 30 games in 1922-23.

By the mid-part of January, the Capitals were leading the league. The Montreal Star reported quote:

“The feature of the pennant chase was the rise of Regina Capitals to the top of the heap. The Caps are hitting a fast pace at present and appear to have reached their best form, with every member of the team worthy of a regular berth on any professional outfit. Regina is the class of the league right now.”

Finishing second overall, they won the league championship over the Edmonton Eskimos and would face the winner of the Pacific Coast Hockey Association, the Vancouver Millionaires. The Capitals would unfortunately lose to the Millionaires and the Millionaires then went on to play for the Stanley Cup, which they lost three games to two against the Toronto St. Patricks.

Despite the series loss to the Millionaires, the team was given a gala reception in Regina to thank them for a great first season, with high hopes for the next season. For the last game of the season, which the Caps lost 4-0, 7,000 people crammed into the Regina Arena. The last game was not without drama after Andy Moran punched a referee over a call he didn’t like. He would be suspended for the first two games of the next season.

As the next season approached, the team was ready to take things to the next level. The team would sign two amateurs in the hopes they would improve the team. One man, identified only as Davidson, and Paul Rivard. The most notable aspect of Rivard is that he would be the last surviving player from the Capitals when he passed away in 1991 at the age of 95. In his one season with the team, he would have no points in 10 games.

Barney Stanley would also join the team as well. He had previously been the captain and manager of the Calgary Tigers. Stanley would record 21 points in 29 games with team that first season, on his way to being inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame.

For the next three seasons, the Capitals would finish in second place but would never again advance past the first series of the playoffs.

There were still highlights during that time. On Nov. 20, the Capitals took on the Ottawa Senators, who had just finished winning three Stanley Cups in the previous four years. The game was part of an exhibition match in Winnipeg and the Capitals emerged as the winners 5-2. The Victoria Daily Times reported quote:

“Regina won through a brilliant effort in the last period when they punctured the champion’s net on four occasions while a brilliant individual effort by Nighbor in the closing minutes when Regina was playing short-handed added the final tally to the Ottawa account.”

The newspaper would go on to say quote:

“The Senators made a very favourable impression on their first appearance in Winnipeg. They were outplayed most of the way by the aggressive Capitals who kept Benedict busy.”

During those first three seasons, the team would finish with no less than 14 wins, which happened in the first season. The team’s best season was in 1923-24 when they won 17 games, lost 11 and tied two.

That unfortunately, would be the beginning of the end for the team. During the off season, the team would lose Barney Stanley, who signed with the Edmonton Eskimos. During his time with the team, he never had less than 20 points in 30 games. Wes Champ would attempt to bring over Ernie Parkes from Vancouver, but he would refuse to sign in Regina.

The Calgary Albertan would say of the loss of Stanley, quote:

“What Regina will do without Stanley is a mystery. He was the backbone of the Caps and was the only one of the forward lines that could stand the gaff. Regina’s chances of finishing one-two-three in the league race appear very slim.”

During the fourth season, the team would see a deep dive in the standings. By the end of the season, the Capitals only had eight wins and 20 losses, finishing last in the WCHL and out of the playoffs for the first time. The team would lose its final game of the season 3-2 to Calgary, a team that took first place in the league. The loss was the 11th straight loss for the team that season.

One bright spot for the team that year was the signing of a new player named Eddie Shore, who would go on to become one of the greatest players in NHL history. During his one season with the team, he would have six goals in 24 games.

Sadly, that season would be the last season for the team.

While team owner Wes Champ went east to find new hockey talent, he may have been going to gauge interest selling the team. Only two weeks after he left Regina to go east, there were reports that the team would be bought by Detroit promoters. The Victoria Times Colonist wrote quote:

“The promoter, the rumor explains, got in touch with Wes Champ down east to bolster up his team and made him such a tempting offer that the Regina Capitals were almost sold on the spot. Wes Champ had not thought of disposing of the Caps when he started East, it is believed here. He went solely to land a few stars to make his team of championship calibre again.”

The team wouldn’t be sold to Detroit, but they would be sold.

By Aug. 29, there were rumours that Champ had sold the club to a coastal city. He would state quote:

“I have received an offer of $25,000 for my franchise. The offer, made some weeks ago, is still open and is still being considered. I don’t think there is any question about the Sheiks staying in Saskatoon, but it is possible that the Capitals may be transferred.”

This was the first statement from Champ since his return from the east about the possible sale of the team.

The Winnipeg Tribune reported quote:

“Regina fans are still hopeful that the franchise will be retained locally and are anxiously awaiting the word next week that will seal their fate.”

Three days later, the team was sold for $25,000 to Portland buyers. The Regina Leader-Post reported quote:

“Regina, a member of the Western Canada Hockey League since its inception four years ago, passed out of the professional hockey picture last night. The passing was chronicled in a press dispatch from Portland, Oregon announcing that the coast city would hold a franchise in the Western Canada Hockey League this winter.”

Things didn’t change for the team, and they finished in last place, winning 12 games in total, while losing 16.

After that season, the Western Hockey League came to an end and every contract for each player in the league was bought by the National Hockey League for $258,000. The original Capitals players, who had played one season with Portland, would form most of the roster of the new Chicago Black Hawks, which had been admitted to the NHL.

Chicago would go on to become one of the iconic NHL teams, winning six Stanley Cups. Only a few years after the team moved from Regina to Portland to Chicago, the Black Hawks would win the Stanley Cup in 1933-34.

The Prairie Hockey League would pop up in 1926-27, and a new Regina Capitals were created, completely independent from the original team. They finished second overall and won only two games in the second season. The team, and the league, folded after that second season.

Out of 206 games as the Regina Capitals, from 1921 to 1928, the team would win 83 games, lose 106 games and tie 17.

Information from NHL.com, Legends of Hockey, Victoria Daily Times, Wikipedia, Regina Leader-Post, Edmonton Journal Montreal Star, Saskatoon Daily Star, Vancouver Sun,

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