Just because this is a Stanley Cup story about teams from New York and Montreal, don’t go reading into it that I’m predicting the Islanders and Canadiens to reach the Final. (Then again, if it happens to be the two of them facing off against each other two weeks or so from now, remember where you read it!)
No, this is really just an excuse by me to spin a story out of a recent query about Lester Patrick’s sons, Lynn Patrick and Murray (Muzz) Patrick, scratching their names onto the Stanley Cup as kids when they found the trophy in the basement of their family home in Victoria, British Columbia. The questions was, had it happened in 1925 — when Lester’s Victoria Cougars had won it — or in 1928 — after Lester’s New York Rangers won it.
I’d always heard the story as 1925, and though some stories say 1928, the evidence turned out to be highly in favour of the earlier year, when Lester Patrick was the owner, coach, and general manager of the Cougars. Still, that didn’t stop me from doing plenty of poking around into 1928, when it seems extremely unlikely that as the coach and GM of the Rangers, he’d had the chance to bring the Stanley Cup home to Victoria.
Many of you know that Lester Patrick was a main character in the first book I ever wrote, an historical novel called Hockey Night in the Dominion of Canada. So, for me, any chance to read up on old stories about Lester is like reading letters from an old friend. Lester was quite a bit in the news when the Rangers won the Stanley Cup in 1928, so there was no shortage of stories.
The 1928 Stanley Cup Final between the New York Rangers and the Montreal Maroons was played entirely at the Forum in Montreal. (The Rangers, as would often be the case when the NHL playoffs rolled around, had to evacuate Madison Square Garden for the annual appearance of the Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus). After the Rangers won the best-of-five series with a 2–1 victory in the final game on Saturday, April 14, 1928, they brought the Cup back to New York with them. On April 16, the team was paraded “in motor cars, preceded and followed by a special corps of motorcycle cops,” from Madison Square Garden to City Hall, where they met with New York Mayor Jimmy Walker.
“There we sat,” Lester recalled with a laugh in a story in the Vancouver Sun on May 5, 1928, while visiting from Victoria, “with banners strung along the sides, roaring through the traffic jams, lords of the universe for the time, at least. They paraded us to the city hall and back again in one quarter the time ordinary traffic could have done. The boys got a great kick out of that.”
Lester hadn’t had nearly as much fun getting out of the Forum after the Rangers’ victory over the Maroons.
“I had to fight my way through a yelling mob to the bus, 40 minutes after the game had concluded,” Lester said. “It was a very partisan crowd, naturally. They had figured the Maroons were a cinch, and they couldn’t take the defeat gracefully for the moment.”
Indeed, the crowd in Montreal had not been happy.
Heavy favourites over the Rangers, especially with all the games at home, Montrealers had not expected the series to go the limit, and when it did, the Maroons dominated play in game five, outshooting the Rangers 38-14. Still, they were beaten 2-1. The referees certainly didn’t put their whistles away in this one, with plenty of penalties called. But that wasn’t what upset the fans.
Early in the third period, with the Rangers up 1–0 thanks to a Frank Boucher goal late in the first period, the Maroons appeared to tie the score. Their goal was called back, however, because referee Mike Rodden ruled the play was offside. Montreal fans, according to the Gazette in its Monday recap of the game, “vented their ill-feelings against the arbiter by heaving everything that they could pry loose. The ice was littered as it has never been before.”
The Gazette detailed an “odd assortment of articles that was heaved on the ice.” There were pennies according to some sources, and bottles, one of which hit a player, but didn’t hurt him. “Winter hats were mingled with new spring felts,” said the Gazette, and “one young lady hobbled out after the game with only one silver slipper on, the other having been hurled out to the ice.”
It took a cleaning crew seven minutes to clear the mess, and they had “no sooner made the surface playable when a spectator hurled a chair from a box seat, narrowly missing those in front of the promenade.” The game was further delayed while the chair-tosser was removed from the rink.
The delay apparently took some wind out of the sails of the Maroons, and gave the Rangers a chance to catch their breath. With just under five minutes to go, Boucher scored again to up the lead to 2-0, and, despite a late Montreal goal, New York held on for the victory. But the fans weren’t finished being angry. When referee Rodden failed to pass through the lobby of the Forum on his way out (he apparently left quickly, through a side exit), a small mob turned its attention to NHL president Frank Calder instead. Calder was hustled safely into the Forum business office while a group of ushers “quickly terminated the display of rowdyism.” Lester Patrick had either fought his way through that same rowdy crowd in the lobby on his way to the team bus; or else they had taken their anger outside.
Later that evening, the Rangers and the Maroons shared a peaceful meal together at the Windsor Hotel, where the Stanley Cup was presented to the visitors.
Back in New York two days later, after being received by Mayor Walker at City Hall in the afternoon, the Rangers were dined at the apartment of William F. Carey, vice president of Madison Square Garden in the evening. Between engagements, wherever the players went, they were said to have been greeted by admirers all anxious to see the Stanley Cup.
A few days later, Lester Patrick left New York to return home to Victoria. The Stanley Cup stayed behind, being displayed for a few days in the window of the Fifth Avenue jewellers Cartier & Co., who would create a new silver band to add to the trophy to commemorate the Rangers’ first hockey championship.