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5 things you (probably) didn't know about hockey in Vancouver

From the invention of the blue line to the Vancouver Amazons.
Clockwise from top left: the Denman Arena, a drawing of Fred 'Cyclone' Taylor, Frank Patrick, the Vancouver Amazons.

Hockey has been a part of Vancouver's culture for well over a century.

While eastern Canada takes credit for the invention of the game (rightly so), many pieces of the game were developed out on the west coast. Even leaving out the NHL and the (current) Vancouver Canucks, the city has a vibrant hockey community and plenty of interesting facts.

So here are five of those.

1. Vancouver was home to the biggest arena in Canada, which was the first to use "artificial" ice

To be clear right away, the ice was real, frozen water. But it was artificially frozen at the Denman Arena in 1911, which was a first for an arena in Canada.

The massive building in Coal Harbour held 10,500 fans (second only to Madison Square Garden in New York) and was the creation of the Patrick family, who needed a venue for the Vancouver Millionaires, one of the original three teams in the Pacific Coast Hockey Association (PCHA). This was the pre-NHL era and the game, leagues, and teams were all relatively new.

The Denman Arena played a central role in Vancouver for 25 years and would have for years more if it hadn't burned down in 1936. Along with the arena, the fire claimed the lives of two people and destroyed several industrial buildings, a couple of houses, and dozens of boats.

2. The blue line was invented in Vancouver

Lots of rules that seem basic now were likely invented in Vancouver, thanks to the Patrick family, in particular brothers Lester and Frank.

They were the family behind the PCHA (including the teams), Denman Arena, and more. Frank and Lester both played for the teams they managed as well, with Frank taking charge of the Vancouver Millionaires. In 1913, Frank also became president of the league.

The PCHA was a big deal in the pre-NHL hockey world, hiring some of the biggest stars in the game; teams from the young league won a couple of Stanley Cups when it was still part of a challenge series. At the same time, in the first three years it was around, it only had three teams — Vancouver, Victoria, and New Westminster — and two of those teams (New West and Vancouver) played out of the Denman Arena.

In 1913, as president of the three-team league (of which two teams played out of an arena in Vancouver), Frank added the two blue lines to the PCHA's rule book, forever changing the game.

Frank and Lester are credited with creating 22 rules over the years — like penalty shots, the goalie's crease and numbers on jerseys — that are still in today's NHL according to the Hockey Hall of Fame.

And, while the PCHA and Vancouver Millionaires folded in the 1920s, Lester and Frank went on to big roles in the NHL: Frank was an executive in the league's head office for a spell. Lester, who had been based in Victoria, sold the team to Detroit (now known as the Red Wings) and moved to New York where he coached the Rangers to a couple of Cups.

3. The Vancouver Amazons played in the first international women's game

Women's hockey teams weren't common in the 1910s, but there were a few. In 1918 a team called the Amazons formed in Vancouver and by the early 1920s they had a solid reputation.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, Frank Patrick saw an opportunity to grow the game and organized a tournament with three teams: the local Amazons, the Victoria Kewpies and, notably, the Seattle Vamps.

Thanks to Seattle's participation, this marked the first international women's game, held on February 21, 1921. Vancouver won the game and, ultimately, the tournament.

4. A Vancouver hockey star spent a fair amount of time aboard the Komagata Maru

While the Vancouver Millionaires paid a good deal of money in the 1910s for players, contracts weren't the same as they are now and players, even stars like Fred 'Cyclone' Taylor, had to have a regular job.

As such, Taylor was an immigration officer with the federal government. In 1914, after starring with the Vancouver Millionaires during the hockey season, he had to board ships coming into Vancouver harbour from abroad. When the Komagata Maru arrived, he was the first immigration official on board.

The ship sat in Vancouver's harbour for two months waiting due to racist policies not allowing the people onboard — mostly Sikhs, but also Muslims and Hindus — to disembark. The ship was eventually turned away, with no supplies.

In his biography, Taylor is quoted as calling it a "terrible affair."

"No one was proud of it."

5. The Vancouver Canucks beat Boston in game seven of the championship

No, this isn't some revisionist history. The Canucks did beat Boston in game seven, winning the title.

And with that win, they brought home the United States National Senior Championship.

In case there's any confusion, this didn't happen in 2011. Or in the NHL.

It was actually in 1946 and the Canucks were an amateur team in the Pacific Coast Hockey League, which means they were eligible for the American national amateur title.

Their opponent? The Boston Olympics, a Bruins farm team.

The Canucks went down 3-1 in the series but rallied to win it in seven in front of a home town crowd (all the games were played in Vancouver).