Top 10 Moments in Vancouver Hockey History

Canucks fans are proud of their team and its history so, naturally, the best way to rile up a Canucks fan is to mention the lack of a Stanley Cup in the franchise. Unfortunately for those who want to rile up said Canucks fans, I am here to provide a list of the best moments in, not just Canucks history, but Vancouver hockey history. Feel-free to use it as fodder for those hockey-related arguments, be it face-to-face or via the ‘comments’ section on a youtube video.


10.  While not all current NHL fans remember first-hand the 1972 Canada – Russia Summit Series, but they’ve all heard of it. As most Vancouverites know, game four was played in Vancouver at the Pacific Coliseum. Although, the Canadians lost the game and those who were lucky enough to be at the game booed the home team, it was a moment in hockey history that will not soon be forgotten.

The booing caused Phil Esposito to make this speech:

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9. Long before the NHL came to be, there were two leagues that would play for the Stanley Cup. The winner of the Pacific Coast Hockey Association (PCHA) and the National Hockey Association (NHA) would battle it out over five games. The Patrick brothers, Frank and Lester, brought hockey to Western Canada when they created the PCHA in 1911 after moving to Nelson from Ontario. At first there were only three teams: The Victoria Senators, The New Westminster Royals, and The Vancouver Millionaires. This hockey league exposed the Left Coast to hockey for the first time and the game quickly grew on the people of British Columbia (and eventually the Northwestern United States). The Vancouver Millionaires attracted many stars from the NHA such as Fred “Cyclone” Taylor, who was, at one point, being paid more than the Prime Minister.


8. When Frank and Lester Patrick created the PCHA, they also paved the way for modern hockey. For one, the Vancouver Millionaires’ home rink was the first indoor rink. Denman Arena was a beautifully crafted wooden arena that seated 10,500 people. Unfortunately, an explosion at a neighbouring coal shed destroyed the arena and it was torn down. Another innovation the PCHA brought in to hockey was the butterfly style of playing goal. Prior to 1911, the rules stated that a goalie must stay on his feet the entire game. The forward pass, blue line and goal crease, playoffs, penalty shot, and numbers on players’ sweaters were also introduced into the game. The PCHA was also the first league to have American teams when they added the Portland Rosebuds in 1914. Needless to say, hockey would not be the same game it  is today without the Patrick brother’s innovations.


7. As mentioned earlier, Fred “Cyclone” Taylor was coerced to the PCHA by the Patrick brothers. Taylor was the best player in the world at the time and the move created a rift between the NHA and PCHA, but it was worked out eventually, and “Cyclone” Taylor proved to be a very useful player for the Millionaires. He drew large crowds to Millionaires’ games and was, in turn, paid more than any professional athlete. He also led the Millionaires to be the PCHA champions six times and a Stanley Cup in 1915.


6. In the year 1970, the NHL expanded to include two more teams, the Buffalo Sabres and Vancouver Canucks. For the first time since 1926 a Vancouver team was allowed to compete for the Stanley Cup. The first game was a 3-1 loss to the LA Kings, but the Canucks remained in playoff contention until then-captain Orland Kurtenbach injured his knee and the Canucks fell a few points short of the playoffs. Although not the most successful of seasons, it helped to further embed a love of hockey in Vancouverites.

Here is Barry Wilkens scoring the canucks’ very first goal:

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5. After having been brought into the NHL, the Canucks didn’t have much success in the post-season. In twelve seasons they had only made it to the playoffs five times and made it past the first round only once. In 1982, however, they had an astonishing cup run. Not without its controversies, the Canucks made it all the way to the Stanley Cup Finals for the first time in franchise history. This cup-run wasn’t the Canucks’ most successful (they were swept in the finals by the New York Islanders) but it was one of the most memorable for more than being the Canucks’ first cup-run. During the second game of the conference finals against the Chicago Blackhawks, coach Roger Neilson and a handful of players, raised white towels onto their hockey sticks and waved them at the refs as a protest, mocking the white flag gesture. The officiating had been, in their view, rather unfair, and thus, the “towel power” tradition was born. It’s safe to say that the white flag no longer means surrender to hockey fans.


4. Twelve years after the 1982 cup run came the 1994 cup run. Unlike the previous run, the Canucks didn’t flounder in the finals. They played the New York Rangers for all they were worth bringing the series to a seventh deciding game. Unfortunately the Canucks lost, and the fans rioted in the streets of downtown Vancouver, but this series had its memorable moments. The Goal and The Save were both products of this run. “The Goal” being in double overtime in game seven of the first round against the Calgary Flames. Bure accepted a beautiful pass from Brown to score an amazing goal on Flames’ goalie Mike Vernon to send the Canucks on to the second round. “The Save” occurred in the same game as “The Goal”. A brilliant skate save by Kirk Mclean that kept the Canucks in the game.

Pavel Bure’s Goal will be remembered as one of the greatest in Canucks’ history for years to come:

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3. Sixteen years after the last cup run the Canucks made it to the finals again in 2011. The run had many similar moments to that of the 1994 playoffs. Bure’s goal in OT of game seven in the first round against a hated nemesis (Calgary), for instance, was similar to Burrows’ goal in OT of game seven in the first round against a hated nemesis (Chicago). It was definitely a memorable season as the Canucks also celebrated their fortieth season as part of the NHL. The finals started out great for the Canucks, facing the Bruins were up three games to none but the Bruins mounted a successful, if not controversial, comeback to force a game seven and win the series. For the second time, Canucks fans rioted in the streets of Vancouver, despite the city’s best efforts to prevent it. This playoff run brought more band wagoners on-board and put hope back into the fan’s hearts.

Alex Burrows slays the Blackhawks dragon “Bure-style”:

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2. When Canadian hockey fans think of great hockey moments that happened in Vancouver, the first one that should pop into their heads happened during the 2010 Vancouver Winter Olympics. Canada had one of its most successful winter Olympics of all time, winning gold for the first time in Canada, but the moment that united Canadians from all over the country and the world was Sidney Crosby’s “golden goal’ that won Canada the Olympic gold medal in men’s ice hockey. It was a nail-biter from the beginning. Playing the U.S. wasn’t going to be easy and though Canada was up for most of the game, the Americans weren’t going to go down without a fight, they scored with a few seconds left in the game and forced overtime. In overtime Sidney Crosby, Canada’s superstar player, scored an inadvertent goal winning the game and causing Canadians everywhere to feel united. After the game, those catching the skytrain back from downtown were treated to an impromptu outburst of “Oh Canada”. A touching experience for any patriotic Canadian.

Iwona Kellie/Flickr

Some residents from across False Creek caught on video the sound of jubilant fans as Crosby scores:

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1. Many Canucks fans are ashamed of the lack of Stanley Cup in Vancouver, but that is not true. The Vancouver Canucks have never won a Stanley Cup and that is a fact, but the Vancouver Millionaires won a Stanley Cup in 1915, the first year they were eligible to compete for the Stanley Cup. There are definitely some bragging rights to be held there. On March 26th, 1915, the Millionaires beat the Ottawa Senators by a score of 12-3 to win the best of five tournament in three straight games. In three years, it will be the 100th anniversary of that achievement and since many Vancouverites don’t know about this amazing event, I encourage you to spread the word. This really is the number one moment in Vancouver hockey history.

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