For Richmond Sockeyes’ president Doug Paterson, it’s like yesterday once more.
Paterson, who also has an ownership stake in the Pacific Junior Hockey League (PJHL) team, was the first captain when the Sockeyes were founded in 1972.
Today he relishes in their success as the flagship junior B franchise (a league-best six PJHL playoff titles, five provincial titles and two national championships) that continually graduates players to junior A, college and even pro, while routinely challenging for playoff supremacy.
Last season, with 10 rookies in the lineup, they again qualified for the playoffs—only a handful of points out of top spot.
“The passion is still there,” said Paterson, who has chaired the league’s board of governors meetings for the past three seasons.
Paterson was a 17-year-old high school senior when he played his first game as a Sockeye, pairing up on the blueline with fellow Richmondite Ron Beaman. Paterson insists he had a “pretty good shot in those days” and scored around 13 goals in what was an otherwise long year for the newly-minted expansion team that also featured locals Don Taylor, Dennis Minns and Jim Lang.
The original Sockeyes were owned and managed by legendary amateur hockey figure Bruce Allison and coached by Bruno Pasqualato.
“Being an expansion team we had our work cut out for us and we especially dreaded going up to the North Shore because the Nor-Wes Caps (featuring Montreal Canadiens’ first-round draft pick Robin Sadler) were a powerhouse,” Paterson said. “We didn’t win a lot, but we were competitive and we got along well.”
A few years later, Paterson’s younger brother Ronnie debuted with the Sockeyes as a goaltender. Also an owner of the current Sockeyes, Ronnie went on to play for Canada’s national team as it prepared for the 1980 Olympic Winter Games in Lake Placid and is today a successful local businessman.
Success, it seems, has long been synonymous with “the fish.”
As early as 1977, the Sockeyes had emerged as a force, winning three consecutive league and provincial titles as well as three Doyle Cups (a now-retired trophy once awarded to the winner of a series between the B.C. and Alberta playoff champions). In 1987 the Sockeyes enjoyed a season for the ages, literally dominating under former Vancouver Canucks’ captain and coach Orland Kurtenbach.
After finishing atop the Coastal Division of the B.C. Hockey League with a 38-14-0 record and outscoring their opponents 347-192, the team netted the Centennial Cup as the best junior A hockey team in Canada.
When the Sockeyes joined the PJHL in 1990 they brought that winning tradition with them, netting the league playoff and provincial Cyclone Taylor Cup titles in only their second season. In 2003 they sprang up from a fifth-place regular-season finish to win their second league and again added the Cyclone Taylor Cup; a feat they repeated the following season.
In all, the team has won six league banners and hoisted the Cyclone Taylor Cup five times.
In 2009 and 2013 the team ruled all of Western Canada as Keystone Cup champs.
Not surprisingly, the Sockeyes’ alumni is an impressive list that includes many future NHL players including Jason Garrison, Raymond Sawada, Karl Alzner and Danton Heinen.
The Sockeyes’ success isn’t limited to the ice however.
Doug Paterson proudly returned to the Sockeyes’ family 16 years ago, when he introduced a scholarship program to assist its graduating players off the ice. Through the support of alumni and the Richmond community, the team has awarded in excess of $200,000 for post-secondary studies.
“Education is front and centre for us,” he said.
Brothers Sean and Rudi Thorsteinson are two hometown boys who played for the Sockeyes and used their scholarships toward post-secondary degrees and remain active in the alumni group.
“We’re sort of mom and apple pie. We see our team as family,” said Doug Paterson. “I think as the Sockeyes we’re in the people business and we try to reflect that. We need to share the same principals and values because we’re creating a culture. We truly care. One of the best compliments we’ve received was from a Notre Dame scout during the nationals in 2013 when he said he would travel several hours out of the way to see the Sockeyes play.”
The Sockeyes will begin their 46th season on ice this September, with home games each Thursday at 7 p.m. at Minoru Arenas.