Santa Rosa JC Hockey team and Grace Bros. Brewery

Yes, there was a real hockey team in Santa Rosa. Back in 1939, Joseph T Grace (my great uncle and one of the original Grace Bros) and a strong supporter of local athletics as well as a wise businessman built an ice arena. In conjunction with the UC Berkeley ice hockey coach, JT concocted a plan to bring down a dozen or so Canadian men 17 to 18 years old, who had grown up playing hockey since they were just out of diapers. With 4 Americans on the team, the SRJC football and baseball coach, Cook Sypher, taught himself the game and how to coach it. And coach it he did! Local merchants including Grace Brothers Brewery employed these boys, and Cook enrolled them in night school. So successful were they, that they beat USC, Cal and UCLA in succession in 1940. Local folks did not become rabid skaters but they did become hockey fans. Imagine having 2,500 people inside the ice rink and 1,000 standing outside in the rain to watch the local team beat USC! Keep in mind the total population of Santa Rosa was just over 12,000 at that time. They played the northwestern champions on New Years Day and defeated them 16-1. Cook said this was the equivalent of 150-6 in football. The brewery paid the players .35 cents an hour. They were young men playing hockey, going to school and working at a brewery-a young man’s idea of paradise. However, this paradise did not include hot showers for them after the games. The hot water never did get hooked up. One of the hockey players remarked recently at a SRJC Hall of Fame Dinner that the fact the games were played at a brewery definitely helped recruit players and opposing teams. The hockey team lasted for two years until WWII took the boys back home to fight for Canada in the war. But it was a galvanizing time for the players, the JC and the town.

(Thanks to Gaye LeBaron for information and photo)