Never has mystery consumed our attention quite like the mystery of the Penticton Vees hat.
For nearly a month now, we've been searching along with a team of sleuths (including Daily News sports editor Gregg Drinnan, former Vees goalie Ivan McLelland, Penticton museum manager Peter Ord and several historians) to accomplish the impossible — solve a riddle wrapped in a mystery inside an enigma.
It all began on Jan. 12, when Kamloops resident Vee Nolan sent our Daily News editor a photo of a green sailor-style cap with the embroidered words "Go V's Go Penticton B.C."
Nolan and her husband had found the hat 40 years ago in some items left behind by their home's former owner.
They knew it was somehow connected to Penticton's famous amateur hockey team whose players became national heroes when they beat the Russians at the 1955 World Championships.
But they could find no documentation, no old photos, no proof linking the hat to the time period.
"A number of years ago I spoke with an avid Vee's memorabilia collector residing in Penticton who had never seen one like it during his many years collecting Vees keepsakes," Nolan wrote in her letter. "He even went so far as to study all the photos and newspaper clippings in his possession to see if he could spot a hat like that, but to no avail."
So Nolan thought our Daily News readers might have some clues, but days went by before any clues started coming in.
Just when it seemed this cold case might be iced forever, our sports editor started getting tips on his blog regarding an old café named Warwick's, which was owned by the Warwick brothers who played for the Penticton Vees — Billy, Grant and Dick.
"The hats were worn by the waitresses at the Warwick's Commodore Café," wrote Brenda Rigby. "… My mom gave me the tip as she graduated in 1955."
At about the same time, one of our newsroom staff took a call from an older man who also said he remembers Warwick waitresses wearing the caps.
At last, we were getting some solid clues as to the hat's origin.
Yet, as we would soon discover, finding any Warwick family members to confirm the tips would be difficult. (Only one brother remains, but age and ill health have exacted their toll on his memory.)
So we turned to B.C. Hall of Fame goalie Ivan McLelland, the netminder who helped the Penticton Vees win the world championship in '55.
Plenty of ink has been written about the team's Cinderella run. The Vees were an amateur expansion team that arrived in Penticton in 1951 and quickly became the sweethearts of the hockey world.
They won the Allen Cup in 1954 and were the ultimate underdogs when they were selected a year later to win back the world title in a match against the Soviet Union.
"It's a story about going from nothing to — in the span of five years — winning a world championship," said McLelland, who is writing a book about his years in hockey.
McLelland and his team rolled through that tournament in Germany, defeating Russia in the gold medal round by a score of 5-0.
They came home bigger heroes than when they left.
"It was exciting and it was something Penticton really needed," said Betty-Ann Waddell, who was a teenager in Penticton in the early 1950s.
"It was great times."
Waddell remembers going to the Warwick Commodore Café after school, where she and her friends would sip sodas and talk about all the things teenagers of the day talked about.
Some of her girlfriends would go on to marry Vees hockey players.
Waddell, now 78, is a volunteer at the Penticton Museum and she's one of the history buffs who are determined to help us solve the mystery of the Go V's Go hat.
"I think it would have been the cooks who wore that hat but I can't remember for sure," she said.
"I know the girls did wear hats when they waited tables but theirs were a little different, more like the kind nurses wore."
An old photograph of a Warwick's café cook and two waitresses seems to confirm Waddell's recollection. The cook's hat is identical in shape to the Go V's Go hat Nolan found 40 years ago.
Peter Ord, manager and curator at the Penticton museum, believes the café's staff wore the hat in 1954 when the Vees were playing for the Allan Cup national championship. But, again, there is no documented proof of that, just the recollections of longtime residents who remember the café and the hockey lore surrounding the team.
And that's where the mystery stands for now.
Even though we've had great support in hunting this mystery (including from The National Post and The Province newspapers who kindly reblogged the photo on their Tumblr websites) we still cannot positively say the Go V's Go hat was worn by staff at Warwick's café in 1954 — or any other year, for that matter. There just isn't the documentation to prove it.
But we haven't given up hope.
In the meantime, the hat's owner says she plans to donate the hat to the Royal B.C. Museum or to the Penticton Museum upon authentication.
This curious green and pink hat has been hidden away for decades but, thanks to Vee Nolan (the irony of her first name is not lost on us, by the way), the Go V's Go cap is destined to become part of a treasured hockey history in B.C.