And so the Cougars return, a team bearing his legacy.
Friday and Saturday nights the Victoria Royals host the Prince George Cougars for their first meetings this season, 7:05 p.m. at Save-On-Foods Memorial Centre.
The Royals (11-11) have little reason for rivalry with the Cougars (7-11-1-3) outside of being division foes, at least in the current climate of the WHL’s B.C. Division.
But lest we forget the history. Oh the history.
Foremost, that name is not theirs. And it’s not just Victoria’s. It’s his. And what’s his, is sacred to the game.
He is hockey’s royal of all royals, the sport’s true master, Lester Patrick, who came to Victoria in 1910 and died here in 1960.
His hockey team, the Victoria Senators, became the Cougars in 1922 and won the Stanley Cup in 1925. The Cougars lost the Stanley Cup in 1926, and the roster was subsequently sold, under his direction, to Detroit, remaining as the Detroit Cougars until 1930. Out of desire for something different, that club became the Falcons, and then Red Wings.
The Victoria Cougars were reborn in 1949 as a minor pro team, with farm affiliation to the NHL, under the guidance of coach, owner and general manager Lester Patrick. And again, in 1971, 11 years after his death, this time as the Western Hockey League franchise it is today.
And now the Prince George club returns, as it will each year. Of course, everything about the modern game bears the work of Lester and his brother Frank. The blue line. Forward passing. Numbers on the back of sweaters. Their imprint is omnipresent.
But some things are Victoria specific. Cougars for instance, stalk the streets of Fairfield and James Bay to this day. Descendants no doubt from those which threatened the city’s urban livestock a century ago. Certainly a factor in the decision of the original team name.
Perhaps the Cougars title is better served in the safety of Esquimalt, where it’s current incarnation as a junior B team is undefeated in regulation after 23 games, the top ranked club in Canada. Coincidence or karma?
Alas, seeing as how the Cougars of the north are entrenched in their community, perhaps it’s also best to let it be.
Let their version of the crest, foreign and all, serve as a nod to he who tweaked the blueprint of the game from the comfort of houses that no longer exist in James Bay and Fairfield, and a rink that no longer stands in Oak Bay.