Through the early history of hockey and the NHL, two brothers would have a massive impact on the game. Their impact is felt to this day and their name’s are synonymous with hockey.
They are Frank and Lester Patrick. Next season, I will talk about Lester Patrick, but right now for the final episode of the season, I am looking at the life and career of Frank Patrick.
Frank Alexis Patrick was born in Ottawa on Dec. 21, 1885, where his father Joseph Patrick was a wealthy lumber baron in the city. As a teenager, the family moved to Montreal.
Lester Patrick would say quote:
“Frank and I played our first hockey on the sidewalks of Point St. Charles. We cut sticks from the woods on Nun’s Island, and used a tin can, a lump of ice, a stone, anything that came handy, for a puck. Mother didn’t like the idea at first. The Point kids were pretty tough, and we got banged up at times; but when she saw we couldn’t be persuaded, there were sticks and a real puck in our stockings one Christmas, and we’ve gone on from there.
In 1903-04, Patrick played for the Montreal Victorias, recording five points in five games.
At McGill University from 1904 to 1908, Patrick would play hockey and would win the Queen’s Cup Championship in 1905 on a team that included his brother Lester. During his time with McGill, he would have 12 points in seven games. He would also serve as the captain of the team. The Montreal Star reported quote:
“The choice seems to be a very happy one. Patrick has now had five years experience in senior hockey with Victorias, Westmount and the last years with McGill.”
While playing at McGill with his brother, they were joined by another person who would have a huge impact on hockey, Art Ross.
In 1907, the entire family picked up and moved out to Nelson, British Columbia so that Patrick’s father could establish a new lumber company.
For the next few years, Patrick lived in Nelson, playing hockey for local teams in the area during the winters.
In 1909-10, Patrick joined his brother Lester on the Renfrew Creamery Kings in the NHA.
By this point, Patrick was one of the top players in the country and was known for his skilled defensive abilities. To play for the Kings, he was paid $2,000, amounting to nearly $60,000 today. It was the hope of the Kings that they could win the Stanley Cup in its first season and the team was loaded with hockey stars. On the team for that year were the Patrick brothers, Newsy Lalonde, Didier Pitre, Sprague Cleghorn and Cyclone Taylor, all future Hall of Fame inductees. The team was also coached by Alf Smith, another Hall of Famer. In that season with the Kings, Patrick had eight goals in 11 games. That included one game when he scored six goals in one game, a record that still stands to this day.
Despite having a stacked roster, the team was unable to win the Stanley Cup. Bruce Stuart would write of this failure in the Ottawa Citizen on April 1, 1910, stating quote:
“Renfrew should have won the cup this winter. Why they had positively the greatest collection of players that I have ever seen together. Why did they lose? Simply because the team lacked confidence in itself and because it was not-properly handled until Alf Smith took charge.”
After their brief time with the Kings, the two brothers would found the Pacific Coast Hockey League with their father Joseph. It would be Joseph that would come up with the idea of having numbers on the sweaters of players. The brothers would also build the first major sporting venue in Vancouver, the 10,000 seat Denman Arena. This was the largest arena in Canada at the time, and the first to introduce artificial ice. That arena would last until 1936 when it burned to the ground.
With the league created, Patrick would play for, coach and manage the Vancouver Millionaires, a team he created. His time with the team would include playing for the team from 1911 to 1918, and coaching and managing the team until 1918-19. Then again from 1924 to 1926 when the team was called the Maroons.
In the team’s first season, it finished with a record of seven wins and eight losses and did not make the playoffs. For the next two seasons, Patrick was unable to take his team to the playoffs as coach. While his coaching career was off to a rough start, He was lighting up the league. In his first three seasons with the Vancouver Millionaires, he had 66 points in only 44 games.
In 1914-15, the Vancouver Millionaires finally broke through. Patrick would have 20 points in 16 games, leading his team to compete for the Stanley Cup, which they won with Patrick scoring three points in the three games.
While playing, coaching and managing the team, Patrick was also the president of the Pacific Coast Hockey Association.
As president, he would bring several innovations into hockey that would later be adopted by the NHL. These included the creation of the blue line, the penalty shot, the boarding penalty and even raising the stick when a goal is scored. He and his brother also allowed goaltenders to fall to the ice to make a save, and for the puck to be kicked anywhere but in the net. In all, Frank has been credited with 22 changes that remain in the NHL rule book to this day.
Even the term, superstars, is attributed to Patrick, who used the word to describe Cyclone Taylor, Frank Nighbor and Mickey MacKay, who were playing for the Vancouver Millionaires in 1915.
In 1919, when Joe Hall of the Montreal Canadiens died from the Spanish Flu during the Stanley Cup Final against the Seattle Metropolitans, Patrick was the largest contributor to the trust fund raised to help the Hall family.
On Feb. 28, 1925, he suggested that the number of players on the ice be reduced to five from six, not including the goaltender. This would see the action in the NHL increased, and goal scoring would begin to climb.
He would say at one point quote:
“I dream of the day that teams will dress two goaltenders for each game.”
That would happen in 1964-65, four years after Patrick had passed away.
Macleans would say in 1925 quote:
“It can safely be said that even the brothers have done more to popularize professional hockey than any other pair in the country.”
Patrick was also not a fan of bodychecking. He would state quote:
“My attitude is not that good healthy contact in the way of blocking incoming players should be eliminated, but that the deliberate bodycheck, the sudden injection of a hip or a shoulder can very well be removed.”
Patrick was also an advocate for women’s hockey. In 1916, he and his brother wanted to form a women’s hockey league to compete with their league. The proposal was to include teams from Vancouver, Victoria, Portland and Seattle.
The league didn’t form but he would own the Vancouver Amazons, a women’s team, which played in 1921 and made it to the final of a women’s hockey tournament at the Banff Winter Carnival. In 1922, the team once again went back to the Banff Winter Carnival and this time didn’t allow a single goal and won the tournament. This tournament featured a team from the United States, making it the first international women’s hockey competition.
After the league folded in 1926 with the players going to the NHL, Patrick became the manager of the Vancouver Lions of the Pacific Coast League from 1928 to 1933.
Over the course of his playing career, he would have nine goals in 12 games in the NHA, and 101 points, including 65 goals, in 87 games in the PCHA and WCHL.
He would become the managing director of the NHL in 1933 and one year later he was asked by Art Ross, manager and coach of the Boston Bruins, to replace him as coach of the Bruins. Patrick was paid $10,500 to coach the team for the next two seasons.
Patrick’s time as coach in Boston started off well with the team finishing first in the American division with a record of 26-16-6. The team lost in the semi-final unfortunately. In the next season, 1935-36, Patrick coached the Bruins to a record of 22-20-6, with the team finishing second in the division and once again losing in the semi-final.
At this point, Patrick was relieved of his duties as coach. There were some rumours that during the playoff series against the Toronto Maple Leafs, Patrick had been drunk behind the bench.
His last foray into hockey would be as the general manager of the Montreal Canadiens in 1935-36.
During the Second World War, Patrick began to work in a wartime industry, but after a severe heart attack in 1945 he decided to retire. He would still try to put his money into ventures to keep himself afloat, including drilling for oil in the Cariboo region of British Columbia in 1950. He was also sought to coach that year, for the Kerrisdale Monarchs. The manager of the team, Johnny Taylor, said quote:
“If he wants to coach the Monarchs this year, the job is his.”
Patrick would decline, but he still had ideas for hockey that year. In an interview on Feb. 9, 1950 in the Edmonton Journal, he would state that there was not enough goals scored and too much interference. He added that the days of superstars was over. He would add quote:
“Look at Maurice Richard, one of the greats of the game. He started out the season scoring goals regularly, but as soon as he went into a small slump and missed scoring in a couple of games, the strain proved terrific. He has only scored four goals in the last month or so. Granted, your present-day stars don’t spend as much time on the ice as their predecessors but they play more games, travel more frequently, and its not long before the pace begins to tell.”
By this point, despite his huge impact on hockey, Patrick didn’t believe that anyone was interested in his story anymore. He would say quote:
“I don’t care to have my name in print anymore. People aren’t interested in reading about old has-beens.”
In 1950, Patrick was inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame.
On June 29, 1960, exactly four weeks after his brother died of a heart attack, Patrick died of a heart attack.
Before he died, Patrick said quote:
“I am not afraid of death. It could be the opening moment of the best story a fellow ever read or a writer ever wrote.”
Frank Fredrickson, who played with and against Patrick, would say quote:
“It is hard to think of what to say. Sometimes I think silence more eloquent than words. I have fond recollections of Frank as a more dynamic, outspoken, type of leader.”
Cyclone Taylor would say quote:
“I’ve lost a lifelong friend. Canada has lost a great athlete and a great citizen. Frank compared favorably with any defenceman of the past or present.”
In 1966, he was inducted into the British Columbia Sports Hall of Fame. In 1975, he was inducted into the Canadian Sports Hall of Fame.
I will end this episode with what Vern DeGeer said of Patrick upon his death, quote:
“The late Frank Patrick made more outstanding contributions to ice hockey than any single individual in the colorful history of the sport. His revolutionary rules spelled box office in large type, but severe Eastern critics, who were slow to forgive Frank for his wholesale player trades, were also reluctant to adopt playing wrinkles they felt would ruin the game.”
Information from Macleans, Canadian Encyclopedia, Ottawa Citizen, Hockey Hall of Fame, NHL.com, Wikipedia, Vancouver Sun, BC Sports Hall of Fame, Edmonton Journal, Vancouver Province, Montreal Gazette,