Posted on 02 February 2011By David Murray. With the all star break happening what better time would it be to discuss the 40th anniversary of the Vancouver Canucks. The Canucks all-time best players? Interesting?
What qualifies me to offer my opinion? Good Question, I pretty much grew up at the Rink on Renfrew (the Pacific Coliseum), I was at the first game, it was an oldtimer’s game which featured Maurice Richard and Jacques Plante. I was at the first WHL game , Tony Esposito was our goalie.
I was at our first game in 1970 which saw Barry Wilkins score our only goal in a 3-1 loss to the Los Angeles Kings. Len Lunde had the assist on the goal and George Gardner was our opening night goalie! Len Lunde is a great trivia question, he had another famous assist on Gordie Howe’s record breaking 545th goal , breaking Rocket Richard’s long standing mark of 544. Another ex-WHL-Vancouver Canuck, Billy McNiel also assisted on Howe’s goal for Detroit.
The first season saw our Canucks in a respectable 4th place (a sacred playoff position) in December. That was until Captain Orland Kurtenbach, who was also in the top 10 in scoring , went down with an injury. The Canucks sank and with our first round choice of Dale Tallon (Buffalo selected Hall of Famer Gilbert Perreault) with their first pick our destiny seemed to be set. We saw some pretty decent players in the early 1970′s , Bobby Schmautz, who Don Cherry worshiped. Dennis Kearns who in my opinion was the nicest guy I ever met with the Canucks. I used to be an usher and security guard in the early 1970′s at the NHL games and actually was the stick boy for the visiting team with the old WHA Vancouver Blazers. In 1974 I started driving the zamboni at the Canuck games and that was where I met Dennis and many other Canucks that I will go on to tell you about. Jocelyn Guevremont was our next first round pick, a tall defenceman who was supposed to be the next Jacques Laperriere, guess what , he wasn’t. Our next picks Don Lever , Dennis Ververgaert, Rick Blight and Ron Sedlbauer (who was our first 40 goal scorer) started to make our club respectable.
In 1974 , largely due to Gary “Suitcase” Smith our goalie and the fine coaching of Phil Maloney saw the Canucks grab first place in their division. They even beat the high flying Montreal Canadiens in their building in their first playoff game before the wheels came off.
This era saw another one of my favorite players and all around good guy Harold Snepts come in as a rookie. He was only 18 and was around the same age as myself so I got to know him pretty well. Then game the era of the “Clown Jerseys” They are still considered the ugliest jersey’s of all-time. Stan Smyl, Tony Tanti and Thomas Gradin all helped usher in a new era for the Canucks. Adding Dave “Tiger” Williams , Darcy Rota and Richard “the King” Brodeur saw our boys get to the Stanley Cup final in the 1981-82 playoffs before bowing out to Billy Smith and the hated New York Islanders. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BsR5oGJ5YZc
The next generation of Canucks started when they drafted Trevor Linden, another great guy and local hero! This is around the same time as the Canuck’s had two thirds of the famed Russian KLM line .
Igor Larinov and hot dog eating Vladimir Krutov. Krutov wound up not being such a good deal , but it did open up the door for another Russian player, Pavel Bure. I had a hockey card store when Pavel Bure was the hottest player in the NHL! I will always be a fan.
During the month of October in 1992 , it actually was October the first as I recall. I took my four year old son to work with me at the card store for the first time. His mom packed a little lunch for him and he was quite excited about spending some time with Dad at the store.
It was a hot day so the front door was open to let in some air. No sooner did I open the door, three armed thugs rushed into my store, tied me and my son up and put a gun to our heads while the other two rounded up thousands of dollars worth of sports collectibles. The three “cowboys” made it out of the store and into their car speeding down Lougheed Highway and shooting at the R.C.M.P. Who were in pursuit. One of the three “bandits” did not put down his weapon when the police directed him to do so and was shot dead. The other two surrendered.
This story was of course in the news for days. The next day after the incident I got a phone call from a guy with broken english. He said his name was Pavel Bure and wanted to know if Ryan was a Canuck fan? I said yes and he said he was going to send him an autographed Pavel Bure jersey . I was kind of in shock. First of all from the robbery and then to have Pavel phone me. I wondered if it was actually him or a cruel prank someone was playing. Sure enough the next day the UPS man came and on the jersey , he signed (He started to sign Brian, and then erased it an signed it to Ryan) I don’t talk much about this incident , but Pavel was true to his word!
In the spring of 1994 , behind the goaltending of Kirk McLean, the “boys” almost pulled it out. Losing in 7 games to the New York Rangers. We have seen some pretty good players since. Alexander Molginy, Ed Jovanoski, the experiment’s with Mark Messier and Mats Sundin. Some solid play from Markus Naslund , Brendan Morrison, and of course two of the greatest of all Henrik and Daniel Sedin. Henrik reminds me so much of a young Andy Bathgate, who played in the 1950′s and 60′s with the WHL Canucks and was an NHL Hall of Famer with New York, Toronto, Detroit and Pittsburgh. With Roberto Luongo as of late , only losing 1 game in the last two months the “Nucks” look like they could go far into the playoffs this season.
Vancouver is fast approaching 100 years since the Vancouver Millionaires won our only Stanley Cup in 1915. It would sure be nice to see us win another Stanley Cup this season. I don’t want to jinx us, its just been soooo long.
David Murray is the Federal NDP candidate for Abbotsford. He writes sports columns forToday. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.