Victoria Royals Celebrate 80th Anniversary of RCN Hockey Team

The Victoria Royals will feature a new jersey with military roots for this Saturday’s game against the Prince George Cougars.

Honoring the athletes and military personnel who sacrificed their careers and lives during World War II. The Victoria Royals will be wearing a replica of the 1942-43 Navy ISL jersey in honor of this historic team, as they face the Prince George Cougars this Saturday at 6:05pm, during CAF Appreciation Night.

The Victoria Royals are a Canadian major junior ice hockey team in the Western Hockey League (WHL) owned and operated by GSL Group. The Royals play all their home games at Save-On-Foods Memorial Centre and have entered their 12th season of their existence.

This week the Victoria Royals and the Defence Team of CFB Esquimalt are coming together to celebrate the 80th anniversary of the 1942-43 Navy team.

Amidst a time of global fear during the Second World War, NHL and minor league players from across Canada were called to serve their country. Some of these talented prospects found themselves assigned to Vancouver Island’s airfields, barracks, and naval bases.

Despite being away from their families, those stationed at CFB Esquimalt found unity and camaraderie through hockey.

During the war, North American hockey leagues were strapped for players now serving in the military. Yet on the Island, Barney Olson, the owner of Willows Arena, a local ice rink in Oak Bay – was suddenly blessed with a wealth of hockey talent and a golden opportunity to arguably host one of the greatest single seasons of hockey ever played on Vancouver Island.

Olson founded the Island Senior League, a circuit of five teams: two local, Nanaimo and the Victoria Machinery Depot and three ‘service’ teams, Army, Air Force and Navy.

Also known as the bluejackets, the Navy team featured the likes of future Hall of Famer Chuck Rayner, a brief stint from future Toronto Maple Leaf Bob Goldham and a former Flin Flon Bomber named Bernie Strongman.

After the war, Strongman played for the former Victoria Cougars, scoring the first goal when the Memorial Arena opened in October 1949, and was a part of the 1950-51 Pacific Coast Hockey League-winning squad that was inducted into the Greater Victoria Sports Hall of Fame in 2005.

More than half a century after this dream team played their last game, a relic of that memorable season sits in the archives of the CFB Esquimalt Naval and Military Museum.

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