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Lester Patrick: A brief history

by Roger Godin / Minnesota Wild

* WILD TV - Lester Patrick Award
Bob Naegele Feature

The Wild will pay tribue to the Naegele family at Thursdays game vs. Buffalo, 7:00 p.m.

The Minnesota Wild will host the annual NHL Lester Patrick Awards luncheon for the third time in their history on Oct. 22 at the St. Paul Hotel. Team founding owner Bob Naegele Jr, South St. Pauls Phil Housley, Anaheim Ducks Executive Vice President/General Manager Brian Burke, and Detroit Red Wings great Ted Lindsey will receive the prestigious award. The Wild previously hosted the event in both 1998 and 2002.

The award is given for outstanding service to hockey in the United States with eligible recipients being players, officials, coaches, executives, and referees. Winners are selected by an NHL committee, which includes Commissioner Gary Bettman.

So, who is this Lester Patrick that he should be honored with an award named for him? The short answer is that he was an early hockey pioneer who spent 50 years in the game as a player, coach and general manager, much of that service with the New York Rangers. Nicknamed‚ The Silver Fox, Lester was an early rushing defenseman from Drummondville, Que., who, along with his brother Frank, played on various teams in both Eastern and Western Canada during the early years of the last century. Their father, Joseph, had established himself in the lumber business in British Columbia and his sons  moved west to help in the family business. After playing for the Renfrew, Ontario Millionaires in the National Hockey Association (NHA), a predecessor to the NHL, Lester and Frank returned to British Columbia to establish a new league of their own, the Pacific Coast Hockey Association. The league quickly gained par status with the NHA/NHL and competed for the Stanley Cup through 1925.

Besides creating a new league, Lester and Frank were among the games earliest innovators. They financed artificial ice rinks in British Columbia, introduced blue lines to indicate zones, allowed passes from one zone to another, and converted the game from two 30 minute halves to three 20 minute periods. Lester retired after the 1925-26 season and joined the New York Rangers as coach/general manager for the 1926-27 season and remained with the Blueshirts through 1946. During that time period, he led New York to Stanley Cups in 1928, 1933, and 1940, the last as general manager only. In 1928, at age 44, he relieved the injured Lorne Chabot in goal, not his normal position, en route to a Cup victory over the Montreal Maroons.
Lester left the Rangers in 1946 and returned to British Columbia to lead the minor league Victoria Cougars through 1954. He was elected to the Hockey Hall of Fame in 1947 and left a legacy to the sport in the form of his sons Lynn and Muzz, both of whom played and coached for New York. The Patrick legacy has continued to the present day through Craig, son of Lynn, and assistant coach for the 1980 Miracle on Ice team as well as an NHL player, coach, and general manager. Craig’s cousin Dick, son of Muzz, is president of the Washington Capitals.
Three of this year’s winners of the Lester Patrick award all have Minnesota ties and the State of Hockey couldn’t be more proud of those being enshrined.

Bob Naegele leads this year’s winners for his vision in returning the NHL to Minnesota.
His group, originally known as Minnesota Hockey Ventures, was awarded a franchise on June 25, 1997, with the team beginning play for the 2000-01 season at the new Xcel Energy Center.
The team has played in front of capacity crowds for every home game in franchise history, a run that includes seven seasons and 319 pre-season, regular season, and playoff games. The Minnetonka native sold his interest in the team to former Nashville Predators owner Craig Leipold in April 2008 but remains with the team as a board member and minority investor.
Phil Housley, arguably one of Minnesota’s greatest players, went directly from South St. Paul High School Packers to the NHL’s Buffalo Sabres. During his career, he also played for seven other NHL teams and finished with 1,232 points (338g, 894a) in 1,495 games.
He currently ranks second in games to Chris Chelios, 1,616, and in points to Mike Modano, 1,283, among American-developed players. He was a member of the 1996 United States World Cup of Hockey championship team and won a silver medal with the 2002 United States Olympic Team. Housley was inducted into the U.S. Hockey Hall of Fame in 2004.

Born in Providence, R.I., Brian Burke’s family moved to Minnesota when he was 14. He played hockey at the former Edina West High School and then returned to his native state to play the game at Providence College. Following minor pro hockey with American Hockey League teams in Springfield and Maine, Burke obtained his law degree and served as a player representative for six years before launching his NHL executive career. He has worked for the Vancouver Canucks, Hartford Whalers and Anaheim Ducks, principally as president/general manager, but has also served a stint as NHL Senior Vice President/Hockey Operations. Burke’s 2006-07 Anaheim team won the Stanley Cup and he will proudly serve as General Manager of the 2010 United States Olympic Team.

Ted Lindsay, dubbed “Terrible Ted” for his aggressive play in the post-WWII NHL, toiled 14 of his 17 seasons with the Detroit Red Wings. He was a key member of the team’s dynasty that captured seven consecutive regular season titles and four Stanley Cups. Playing on left wing with Gordie Howe and Sid Abel, he won the scoring title in 1949-50, played in 11 All-Star games, and was an eight time first team All-Star. Lindsey also played for the Chicago Blackhawks, served as the Red Wings coach and general manager, and was elected to the Hockey Hall of Fame in 1966.

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