The Victoria Pros of 1912-13

Hockey’s game-changing play turns 100

The adoption of the forward pass was probably the most important rule change in hockey history, but that wasn’t the consensus at the time.

The introduction of the forward pass in hockey is widely acknowledged as a turning point in the game — probably the most important rule change ever.

But that certainly wasn’t the consensus at the time, according to Craig Bowlsby in 1913: The Year They Invented the Future of Hockey.

The author of two previous books about early hockey in BC, The Knights of Winter and Empire of Ice, Bowlsby suggests freeing up the puck’s movement offended the era’s sense of propriety. While forward passing already existed in lacrosse and American football, hockey purists preferred rules restricting the attacking team.

“[T]he new forward pass in hockey threatened people’s world view,” he writes. “Passing a puck forward, to the Victorians and Edwardians, was too extreme, and therefore not honourable … The forward pass would be so fast, and would circumvent the opposing team so easily that it was obviously unfair.”

It’s not perfectly clear what the game looked like until this point. The degree to which passes were forward, backward, or lateral is still a matter of debate — Bowlsby includes a discussion on the subject with fellow author Bill Fitsell as an appendix to the slim volume.

This much we do know: before the rule change, hockey was so slow that players usually spent the entire game on the ice.

Lester and Frank Patrick, co-founders of the Pacific Coast Hockey Association, decided to shake things up, and allow forward passing in the neutral zone, an idea dismissed by eastern sportswriters as “foolish,” “absurd,” and “a farce.”

Players had mixed feelings, with Vancouver Millionaires captain Si Griffis opining that it would be impossible to implement. Even Lester harboured doubts.

When the new “no offside in centre ice” rule was introduced on November 28, 1913 in a pre-season game between Vancouver and Victoria, as expected, things sped up considerably. Players used to a full 60 minutes “began to gasp and wheeze.”

But while quickly embraced in the west, the forward pass was only gradually and grudgingly accepted in the east. The NHL didn’t adopt its own version of the rule until 1918, and until then, Stanley Cup showdows between the two leagues alternated rules — though the PCHA didn’t always dominate contests that employed the forward pass.

The book has a peripheral local connection: the Patricks lived in and played for Nelson between 1908 and 1911 and the Pacific Coast league was bankrolled by the sale of the family’s sawmill at Crescent Valley, whose ruins are still visible.

Copies can be ordered directly from the author at epic(at)intergate.ca.

This story will appear in the West Kootenay Advertiser on November 21.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Nelson City Council discussed COVID-19’s effect on the city at its Oct. 13 meeting. Video screen capture: City of Nelson
Nelson council discusses local business effects of pandemic so far

Report includes results of a summer business survey

LVR Drama student Emerald Lockhart adjusts his costume for a dress rehearsal. Students will perform theatre pieces in Nelson backyards, distanced but not wearing masks. Photo: Bill Metcalfe
Live theatre comes to your Nelson backyard

LVR senior drama class will perform short pieces for households

Nelson’s Flight Corporal Willow Kikosewin-Holden has kept her training during the lockdown. Photo: Submitted
Nelson air cadet completes summer program

Flight Corporal Willow Kikosewin-Holden is moving up in aviation

South Nelson Elementary students added several new varieties of plants to the school grounds with the help of KinSeed Ecologies. Photo: Submitted
South Nelson students get digging

The school added several new varieties of plants to its grounds with the help of KinSeed Ecologies

Brittny Anderson. Photo: Submitted
UPDATED: NDP’s Brittny Anderson named provisional winner in Nelson-Creston

The final result won’t be known until November due to mail-in ballots

NDP Leader John Horgan celebrates his election win in the British Columbia provincial election in downtown Vancouver, B.C., Saturday, Oct. 24, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
Horgan celebrates projected majority NDP government, but no deadline for $1,000 deposit

Premier-elect says majority government will allow him to tackle issues across all of B.C.

B.C. Liberal Leader Andrew Wilkinson speaks during a drive-in car rally campaign stop at a tour bus operator, in Delta, Saturday, Oct. 17, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
Andrew Wilkinson stepping down as B.C. Liberal leader

Will stay on until the next party leader is chosen

VicPD and B.C. Conservation Officer Service teamed up to free two bucks who were entangled in a fishing net and dragging a wheelbarrow sized piece of driftwood behind them. (VicPD)
VIDEO: Police, B.C. Conservation help two bucks caught in one fishing net

Bucks were also dragging a wheelbarrow sized piece of driftwood behind them

Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

Join Black Press Media and Do Some Good

Pay it Forward program supports local businesses in their community giving

A heavy police presence was spotted in Lumby, Monday, Oct. 26, 2020. (Facebook)
Police situation leads to ‘hold and secure’ at North Okanagan school

Police call for social media blackout in ongoing incident

École de l’Anse-au-sable. (Google Maps)
COVID-19 outbreak forces closure of Kelowna school

The outbreak is the first within B.C.’s school system since classes resumed back in September

FILE – B.C. Lions and Toronto Argonauts owner, Senator David Braley speaks after the CFL announced Vancouver will host the 2014 Grey Cup championship football game during a news conference in Vancouver, B.C., on Friday March 8, 2013. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
BC Lions owner David Braley dead at 79

Braley had bought the CFL team prior to 1997 season

Most Read