In the pre-NHL era, professional hockey took many different forms, with regional leagues and a variety of rules from league to league helping to shape the game of hockey. Of all the leagues established in the early 20th century, however, few had as much influence on the modern game as the Pacific Coast Hockey Association - and it was thanks to its founders, Lester and Frank Patrick, whose innovations would change the way hockey was played forever.
The PCHA introduced the blue line and the goal crease, the forward pass and the boarding penalty. It was the first to add numbers to players' sweaters and the first to allow a goalie to leave his feet in order to make a save, the first to have a farm system and playoffs.
The two would eventually sell the six PCHA teams to the NHL in 1924, but while Frank influenced the game itself, it was Lester who would spend the next twenty years working for the league. He coached the Rangers to two Stanley Cups in the 1930s, won a third as the team's general manager and was the namesake for the division in which the Rangers would eventually play: the Patrick Division.
Both Lester and Frank were inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame for their work with the NHL and the game of hockey - but their legacy didn't stop there. Lester's two sons, Lynn and Murray ("Muzz") also carved out careers for themselves within the Rangers' organization, both of them winning the Stanley Cup in 1940 (the organization's last until 1994).
Lynn Patrick played ten seasons for New York before stepping behind the bench from 1948-1950; from there he would serve as general manager and coach in Boston, then coached the inaugural season of the St. Louis Blues - where he gave Scotty Bowman his first coaching job. Muzz Patrick's path wasn't quite as direct, alternating between stints in the minors and a few seasons with the Rangers as their enforcer; his role would come later, when he made the jump to be New York's general manager in 1955 - a post he'd hold for the next decade.
The bloodlines continued for a third generation with Lynn's son Craig and Muzz's son Dick, cousins who would leave their marks on rival teams throughout the 80s and 90s.
After a modest playing career that included a few years in the Capitals' organization, Craig Patrick served as assistant general manager and assistant coach under Herb Brooks en route to Team USA's gold medal miracle at Lake Placid. That turned into what by now was a Patrick family tradition: a general manager position with the New York Rangers, as Craig became the youngest GM in franchise history. And in 1989 he would take the reins of the Pittsburgh Penguins, building the team that would go on to win two Stanley Cups and putting most of the pieces in place for the 2009 championship, as well.
Like Craig, Dick Patrick's playing career was limited, his career never going beyond his days of playing for Dartmouth; his work with the NHL would begin in the early 1980s, when he would step in and purchase a partial ownership stake in the flailing Washington Capitals franchise. That move didn't just help prevent the team from being sold off; it also changed the course of the on-ice product, as Dick quickly hired David Poile as the new general manager. The rest, as the cliche goes, is history. Dick has seen the Caps make the playoffs twenty-three times in the thirty years since he joined the organization and, for his ongoing work with hockey, was recently honored with the award that bears his grandfather's name - the Lester Patrick Trophy.
The Patrick family continues to play a role in the ongoing evolution of hockey; both Craig and Dick are still active in the hockey community, with Dick celebrating three decades with the Caps and Craig serving as a senior adviser for the Columbus Blue Jackets.
And with Dick's son Chris employed as a scout for the Capitals, the Patrick legacy continues... four generations and counting.
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