A piece of hockey history is up for sale, with a rare Vancouver Millionaires sweater, seen in an undated handout photo, hitting the auction block. The cream and maroon wool cardigan is believed to have belonged to Hall of Fame goalie Hugh Lehman, who backstopped the Millionaires to a Pacific Coast Hockey Association championship in 1922-23. (Lelands Auction photo)

A piece of hockey history is up for sale, with a rare Vancouver Millionaires sweater, seen in an undated handout photo, hitting the auction block. The cream and maroon wool cardigan is believed to have belonged to Hall of Fame goalie Hugh Lehman, who backstopped the Millionaires to a Pacific Coast Hockey Association championship in 1922-23. (Lelands Auction photo)

Hockey history up for sale as 97-year-old Vancouver Millionaires sweater hits auction

It was made in a time when even hockey’s top stars would squeeze every possible ounce of life out of their equipment

A unique piece of hockey history is up for sale, with a rare Vancouver Millionaires sweater hitting the auction block.

The cream and maroon wool cardigan is believed to have belonged to Hall of Fame goalie Hugh Lehman, who backstopped the Millionaires to a Pacific Coast Hockey Association championship in 1922-23.

About 10 to 15 sweaters were made for players and staff to celebrate the achievement, but the one currently up for sale is believed to be the last of its kind, said Mike Heffner, president of Lelands Auction.

“Of those 10 or 15, it’s amazing that even one survived,” he said. “Because you put clothing dormant in storage for even 10 years, if they’re not cared for properly, moths can get at them, they can deteriorate. And having something that is (almost) 100 years old, like this, that survived through so many different stages is incredible.”

Not only did the sartorial souvenir survive, it remains in excellent condition, complete with the original wood buttons, the remnants of a tag, and a patch on the left front pocket with the Millionaires’ iconic “V” logo.

It was made in a time when even hockey’s top stars would squeeze every possible ounce of life out of their equipment, Heffner said.

“Players wore the same jersey for the whole season and sometimes for multiple seasons because teams didn’t have the money that teams have now.,” he said, noting that if a jersey was ripped during a game, it would simply be sewn up and given back to the player.

“The garments weren’t worth anything back then. They were considered just sweaty, old hockey jerseys.”

When a piece like the Millionaires sweater finally outlived its usefulness, it wasn’t carefully packed away to be preserved for posterity, either.

“All it was considered was a shirt or a jacket or the time, and once it wore out, things were discarded,” Heffner said. “They were thrown in the trash. And they were worn until they couldn’t be worn any longer, just like hockey jerseys.”

The sweater currently up for sale was previously displayed at the Original Hockey Hall of Fame in Kingston, Ont., and while Heffner said he can’t prove its ownership, the story that’s been passed down is that it belonged to Lehman.

Born in Pembroke, Ont., in 1885, Lehman played 22 seasons of professional hockey and won the Stanley Cup with the Millionaires in 1915.

He spent two years in the NHL, too, joining the Chicago Blackhawks at age 41. Lehman set a record in November 1926 as the oldest goalie to win his debut when Chicago beat the Toronto St. Patricks.

That record stood until February of this year, when 42-year-old Zamboni driver David Ayres caught international attention for coming in as an emergency backup for Carolina and helping the Hurricanes beat the Toronto Maple Leafs 6-3.

Lehman was known for being one of the first goalies to regularly leave his net, and he was nicknamed “Old Eagle Eyes” because he was so good at tracking loose pucks.

He was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1958. Three years later, he died at the age of 75.

Heffner expects the unique Millionaires sweater will end up in a private collection, but said its next owner may also donate or lend it out to a museum where it could be appreciated by the public.

As of Thursday, the top bid for the piece of hockey history was US$3,137. Heffner believes it could fetch as much as $10,000 before the auction closes on Dec. 11.

Gemma Karstens-Smith, The Canadian Press

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Want to support local journalism? Make a donation here.

NHL

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

Just Posted

Eva Pucci Couture in this file shot from May 29, 2019, when she came to Chilliwack asking for the public’s help in locating her missing son, Kristofer Shawn Couture. (Jenna Hauck/ Chilliwack Progress file)
Missing man’s mom still hopeful, 2 years after his car was found abandoned at Chilliwack trail

‘I wish someone would come forward with insight into your whereabouts,’ pleads mom of missing man

Chilliwack is expected to be among the province’s hottest real estate markets in 2021. (THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick)
Chilliwack housing market projected to be among B.C.’s hottest in 2021

B.C. Real Estate Association projects Chilliwack and District to grow by 17.1 per cent

Abbotsford tattoo artist Tanya Loewen has entered the Inked cover girl contest.
Abbotsford mother, tattoo artist enters Inked cover girl contest

Tanya Loewen, tattoo artist at Van Bree Tattoo, hoping to win big in magazine contest

Sheriff Avory Chapman was last seen Jan. 20 on Wellington Avenue in Chilliwack. (RCMP)
RCMP look for missing man last seen in downtown Chilliwack

21-year-old Sheriff Avory Chapman has been missing since Jan. 20

Rolling seven-day average of cases by B.C. health authority to Jan. 21. Fraser Health in purple, Vancouver Coastal red, Interior Health orange, Northern Health green and Vancouver Island blue. (B.C. Centre for Disease Control)
2nd COVID vaccine doses on hold as B.C. delivery delayed again

New COVID-19 cases slowing in Fraser Health region

A Vancouver Police Department patch is seen on an officer’s uniform as she makes a phone call. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
Vancouver man calls 911 to report his own stabbing, leading to arrest: police

Officers located the suspect a few blocks away. He was holding a bloody knife.

Vernon has agreed to a goose cull to control the over-populated invasive species making a muck of area parks and beaches. (Morning Star file photo)
Okanagan city pulls the trigger on goose cull

City asking neighbours to also help control over-population of geese

FILE – Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau delivers his opening remarks at a news conference outside Rideau cottage in Ottawa, Tuesday, January 19, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Vaccine CEO ‘very, very clear’ that Canada’s contracts will be honoured: Trudeau

Trudeau says he spoke to Moderna CEO on the morning of Jan. 26

Ben Tyler was working on a Nicola area ranch when he disappeared. File photo
Ben Tyler was working on a Nicola area ranch when he disappeared. File photo
2 years after his riderless horse was found, police believe Merritt cowboy was killed

Two years after he went missing, Ben Tyner’s family makes video plea for information

A ground worker wearing a face mask to curb the spread of COVID-19 unloads lobsters from a WestJet Airlines flight at Vancouver International Airport, in Richmond, B.C., on Thursday, January 21, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
Trudeau teases stricter travel measures; Canadians flying to U.S. now need COVID test

Prime minister says measures need to not hurt imports and essential trade

Seats in the waiting area of domestic departures lounge of Calgary International Airport are seen with caution tape on them on June 9, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
3-in-4 Canadians in favour of banning interprovincial travel: Poll

According to Research Co., 80 per cent of Canadians would like to see restrictions imposed

The shirts sell for $45, with 30 per cent of proceeds from each sale going to Battered Women’s Support Services in Vancouver. (Madame Premier/Sarah Elder-Chamanara)
Canadian company launches ‘hysterical’ T-Shirt to combat health officials’ use of word

A partnership with Tamara Taggart will see women broadcast the word on a T-shirt or tote bag

Most Read