OUR HISTORY

(as published in the ROAR newsletter, August 2014)

During the 1963/64 season, a few field hockey players at UBC realized that they wanted to continue to play together after their graduation. They checked out some of the local teams, but none of them really interested these gentlemen, who still wanted to play good, competitive hockey, but with an active social side to it. So, this group of “hockey pioneers” formed their own team.
 
The “ringleaders” of this hockey faction included Victor Warren (a.k.a. “Lord Tachbrook”), John Young (later to be called “The Late Young John” because he was late once for a test match while playing for Canada), DK Fraser and Joost Wolsak. The first order of business was to find a name for this new team and when DK said, “Well, we’re a bunch of Jokers,” the problem was solved. John Young used his newly acquired architectural skills and designed the now famous Joker logo, and as they needed a distinct colour to stand out from other Vancouver teams, Joost (being Dutch) suggested that orange was the obvious choice! So, with a name, a uniform colour and logo to represent them, the first Jokers field hockey team was born!
 
Despite such amazing progress, the new Jokers hit upon a snag. The league declared that any new team should start in the second division. Not to be denied, Jokers attended the next AGM of the British Columbia Lower Mainland Grass Hockey League en masse and insisted on a vote. The count was so close that voters had to line up on opposite walls to be counted. Joker supporters won by one vote (and one of the Jokers’ votes was that of Peter “English” Buckland who was ineligible!) Thus, Jokers were admitted to the 1st Division! They were on their way at last!
 
The original “four Musketeers” were joined by Peter Buckland from England, known as “P-Eng Buckland”, Nick Milkovich (the team’s 1st uniform man) and Terry Barkley. Peter Buckland from Canada, aka “P-Can Buckland”, joined a year or two later, as did Az Ansari, who greatly developed the club’s social side with his wife Sharon, who immediately took very efficient control of the team’s beer kitty. Beer was 25 cents a bottle then!
 
Over the next four years, Jokers added four more teams (Jokers Too, Jokers Also and Jokers Again etc). In 1967, following the first mixed hockey tournament in Vancouver – organised by who else but the Jokers – the first Joker women’s team appeared, made up mostly of wives and spectators who, having seen how much fun the men were having, decided that they’d like some exercise as well before the post-game “celebrations” began. The main driving forces behind this women’s movement were Annemieke de Leeuw and Judy Peat, now Judy van Dishoek; real movers and shakers! Judy and Ewout van Dishoek also became the first Joker couple to get hitched (and as they are still married, they may also have the longest Joker marriage).
 
Victor Warren landed the most pleasant assignment as the first women’s coach, working mostly on defense for those first two years, and Neil Heard succeeded Victor two years later. Up until this point, the Jokers played hockey each winter weekend on local grass fields and the players took turns hosting all members at their own homes for still talked about postgame parties! However, as the Club had grown significantly, it was becoming more difficult to fit everyone in and wives were losing enthusiasm for accommodating droves of muddy, sweaty field hockey players!
 
Then one night, in the early 1970s, Victor “Lord Tachbrook” Warren got to chatting with a fellow in The Abbotsford Hotel Pub. This gentleman, Mr. Tim “Too Tall” Shaddick, was a rugby player for the Vancouver Rowing Club and his team mates were in a difficult situation at their clubhouse and asked if the field hockey players would be interested in joining them. Stuart Wilson, then President of the Jokers, took up the challenge. After some highly-charged Jokers meetings, it was agreed that the Jokers would join the VRC, and we were initially accepted in early 1974 as Rugby section members, until a VRC AGM could be held to create a Hockey section. Stuart became the first Joker to sit on the VRC Board of Directors as the field hockey representative.
 
However the contentious meetings had just started for Stuart, as the club was involved in a dispute with the Burrard Yacht Club, which required weekly meetings over legal issues, and serious decisions needed about the Club’s very survival. At one point the Fire Department shut the club down completely, as there was no money available for necessary maintenance and upgrades. It ended up in the BC Supreme Court, and the final decision in favour of the Club resulted in changes to the Club's structure, finances and constitution.
 
After those early, dramatic days, the Jokers quickly became what they are today: an integral and active section of the Rowing Club, with its location and facilities making it one of the world’s great clubhouses. It has been the venue for countless social events, host for visiting overseas clubs, as well as a great asset for meetings and social occasions for the sport in general in Vancouver. The Jokers’ reputation for enjoying life, on and off the hockey field, was permanently secured, and greatly enhanced.
 
By 1976, the Jokers were still very actively involved in the behind the scenes organisation of hockey and had practically taken control of the Canadian Field Hockey Association. P-Can Buckland was President, Stuart Wilson was Secretary, Rick Hawkesworth was Treasurer, Victor Warren was a VP (in control of the National Team) and Errol “Flynn” Hartley was the National Coach. Another BC hockey legend, John McBryde – who despite playing for another club in Vancouver, was a member in good standing of the Jokers touring arm, Jokers International – was also on the CFHA executive at the time, and P-Eng Buckland was editor of the CFHA news. So, with P-Can Buckland at the helm, this amazing group of gentlemen sold the FIH on the idea of artificial turf. As a result of their hard work, the Montreal Olympics in 1976 was the first ever to play field hockey on artificial turf.....the international world of field hockey would never be the same again, all thanks to a small hockey club in British Columbia called the VRC Jokers!
 
As the years rolled by, the parties and tours continued at an incredible rate as the VRC Jokers proudly continued to be, without question, the most social hockey club in the Lower Mainland (and perhaps Canada). By 1983, the women organized the first Joker women’s tour to Mexico for February of 1984 (a photograph of this team can be seen on display in the Carver Bar at the VRC). However, as funds were needed to help pay for the trip, a fundraiser was set for November 5, 1983. It was a night to remember as 300 women packed the Harbour Room and were entertained by several gorgeous strippers and served drinks by half-naked men! At 9.30pm, when the strippers were done, the rest of the hockey men were allowed in for the dancing portion of the evening and the capacity crowd danced so much that they actually felt the earth move! Unfortunately, it wasn’t the earth, but the floor of the VRC that moved several inches that night. The Clubhouse closed a few days later for some extensive foundation repairs and this event has gone down in history as the one that almost brought the house down.....literally!
 
As the ‘80s rolled into the ‘90s and the new millennium came around, the VRC Jokers continued to play hockey and set the standard for post-game socials. The Jokers still field men’s and women’s teams into the winter leagues, have far too much fun playing mixed drop-in hockey all summer, tour to places far and wide, work with the local schools to expose this great game to the next generation and of course host touring teams whenever they visit our beautiful city.
 
Playing hockey, making friends and having fun, truly is the mantra that the VRC Jokers lives by and we hope you’ll come along for the ride!