Wembley Lions’ defenceman Lou Bates was the first crowd-pleasing Canadian star in British ice hockey – so much so that he was featured on a cigarette card. His solo rushes up ice, with his long, black hair flying, produced roars of ‘Loo-oo-oo’ from the crowds of 10,000 that packed the Empire Pool in pre-war London.
A fine athlete who also excelled at boxing, canoeing and Canadian football, he was signed by Sir Arthur Elvin, the owner of Wembley’s Empire Pool, as the first captain of the Lions in 1934-35. He later told the Ottawa Journal: “I was the highest paid player anywhere in the world. Sir Arthur paid me $10,000 a year, which was a lot of money then. It was more than any player was getting in the National Hockey League (NHL).”
He turned out to be a natural leader and retained this role for six years up to the outbreak of World War Two. Six foot tall and good looking, well-dressed and well-spoken with an almost English accent, he was a charismatic figure off the ice as well as on it. And he was never too busy to chat to fans or sign the many autograph books thrust in front of him.
Wembley was a powerhouse in those days and Bates led his men to silverware in four of his six seasons, including two league titles. He was elevated to the league’s All-Star ‘B’ team in 1935-36. In the middle of the 1937-38 campaign, he was appointed player-coach until the end of 1939-40, when he was voted onto the All-Star ‘A’ team on defence.
On the resumption of the league in 1946, aged 35, he resumed his dual role for the first post-war season, adding team manager to his duties in January 1947. He then coached for half the 1947-48 term before retiring.
When the World Championships came to London (Earls Court, Harringay and Wembley) in 1950 he was appointed coach of Great Britain. They won four of their seven games, finishing fourth.
After a season coaching Streatham, he concentrated on his successful business career in scrap metal and waste paper, which he had started with the help of Arthur Elvin.
in the early 1930s Lou had toured Europe with two Ottawa teams, with a trip to Britain included in season 1931-32. After the second tour in 1933-34 he stayed in Paris at the end of the season, and iced for the new Francais Volants club.
John Louis Algernon McVicar Bates was born on 14 July 1911 in Ottawa, Canada. Of English parentage, he was a distant relative of British Prime Minister Herbert Asquith. He died in London, England on 30 July 1987. He was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1950.