Tag Archives: Vancouver Canucks


by Ron Spence

Vancouver’s had a holiday tradition that’s continued – off and on – for nearly 40 years – the Flyers come to town.

Yesterday’s game was excellent hockey – the best game that the Canucks have lost this season – according to the dawg.

There was only one scrap, the result of some intense play – something to be expected in a close, physical game.

This hasn’t always been the case, however.

The hockey hasn’t always been good, and what caused intensity was the fear of a collective muggling by the infamous Broad St. Bullies.

One of the best-known brawls took place on December 29, 1972 – after a ‘nucks’ fan grabbed Don Saleski’s hair.

This prompted some of the other Flyers to go into the stands, and it was the OK Corral in the Pacific Coliseum.

The end result was: a 4-4 tie; a number of Vancouver fans who swore that they’d never attend another hockey game; and court action against the Philly brawlers – soon called “the Vancouver Seven.”

A subsequent game in Vancouver on February 9, 1973 was a replay of brawling – and a 10-5 win for the Flyers, which was the highest scoring game in Philly’s half a decade history.

The Vancouver players continued this tradition a year later  – on December 20, 1973 – but in Philadelphia this time.

Below, Vanc0uver goalie Gary “Suitcase” Smith loses his handle and takes on Philly’s backup, Bobby Taylor.

Also involved are Philly’s Bob Kelly versus the restrained Dennis Ververgaert.

Bobby Clarke is noticeable in his absense, standing on the sidelines to the left – out of the line of fire.

I think that’s Pat Quinn at the lower left, with his gloves off, but no one’s pairing off with him.

Philly won the game 9-3, didn’t win the Stanley Cup that spring, but did the two following years – 1974 and 1975.


courtesy of explorepahistory.com

Ironically, that first Xmas brawl – in Vancouver – contributed to Philadelphia’s Stanley Cup championships.

Bobby Taylor told me that when they had to appear together in court, it helped to bring the team together for the first time – a kind of us versus the world kind of thing – which contributed to their team spirit and rise. They walked around town in a group, he said, and this brought them together.

This is significant because the Flyers didn’t have the most talent in the NHL, but they always played as a team – all for one and one for all.

So, the spirit of Xmas did spread.

Unfortunately, it was the Philadelphia Flyers who received the presents.


My favourite Philly bonding story takes place in a Vancouver bar.


courtesy of gophermix.com

The “Vancouver Seven” were having a few pops at the time of their court case, and were relaxing with their attorney Gil Stein.

Then Barry Ashbee lit a match, leaned over and set “Cowboy” Flett’s beard on fire.

“Cowboy” sipped his beer, and then extinguished the fire with the rest of his cerveza.

“You guys are absolutely crazy!” Stein muttered.


by Ron Spence

When it came to Sedins bashing, I was near the head of the line.

I didn’t like the way that they: kept falling down; let rivals face wash them; took up ice time which they didn’t deserve, with their quality of play [at the time]; kept cycling and never shot the puck; weren’t sent to the minors when they should have been, etc.

I was wrong.

The Canucks have done some questionable things during their franchise’s history, but at the top of their “good things” list are: Brian Burke’s wheeling and dealing, so that he could draft the twins as a pair; and the team’s nurturing of the boys, through their steep NHL learning curve.

They have become very good players – although, they still have a ways to go.

What makes their success, however, even more tasty to Canucks’ fans, is comparing their careers – to date – with the others from their draft year.

The majority from the top 15 have been a bust.

The only three players – besides the Sedins – to remain in the league are Mike Milbury’s three picks.

Glen Sather had two, but his are in the AHL and Europe.

Data Courtesy of Hockeydb.com – September, 2008


Just when Evgeni, Sidney, and Miroslav thought it was safe to go into the water…


they encountered the trapping Orcas and their Head Whale, Roberto….


by Ron Spence

The perfect October 28th game? Canucks 6 – Bruins 2. Lucic  with a “Gordie Howe Hat Trick.”

Milan Lucic is that kind of guy.

On October 20th, he had only one goal for the young season and there were some concerns in Beantown.

Then, three days later, he boarded Mike Van Ryn and smashed a pane of glass. People had questioned his timing, but it was obviously back.

And then, two days later, Lucic scored a hat trick against Atlanta, won the game, and ended Boston’s three game losing streak.


courtesty of canada.com

The Boston Globe described Lucic’s play prior to his scoring outburst.

“It wasn’t long ago that Lucic was on the fourth line,” wrote Fluto Shinzawa of the Boston Globe, “skating alongside Yelle and Thornton. Lucic struggled in training camp, appearing a step behind the play and rarely putting himself in position to lay the smack on opponents or score a timely goal.

But as the season has progressed, Lucic has regained his timing and landed, most recently, on the No. 1 line, where he was sorely needed last night. It’s the kind of culture Julien has made sure to institute, rewarding deserving players with playing time and demoting others when they don’t deserve to be on the ice.

“He wasn’t necessarily on the fourth line because we were disappointed in him,” Julien said. “He had a slow start. We slotted him in the position where we thought he should start. Once he started getting his game back, he slowly got up the ladder. Tonight, I thought he was where he deserved to be.

“The results were there for him. This is the Boston Bruins. It’s about heart and soul and going out and working hard. Looch is a perfect example of that. He won us a hockey game tonight with the way he played and the identity that we talk about.”

That identity was certainly present last spring – during Boston’s playoff games against Montreal.

“He’s been their best player by a long shot,” Canadiens coach Guy Carbonneau noted. “He’s played really well. I like the way he plays. He’s physical, he’s got good speed, he gets involved. Nothing dirty. I really enjoy watching him.”

The Globe’s Kevin Paul Dupon, wrote of Lucic on April 15 – during the playoffs: “Lucic, as of yesterday morning, led the playoffs with 18 hits, four more than the Rangers’ Daniel Girardi and the Flames’ Dion Phaneuf, a pair of defensemen. Only 19 years old, Lucic has become a presence, a force, cut in the same bold form as Hall of Famer Cam Neely. He has yet to demonstrate Neely’s shot, or touch, or cruising speed, but he is slowly knitting those elements together….”

courtesy of bruinsnhl.com

B.C. hockey fans know Lucic’s style of play.

They watched fondly as he: led his Vancouver Giants to a Memorial Cup win – and an MVP Trophy; captained the Canadian Junior team to the 2007 Super Series championship; and made the Boston Bruins’ squad as an 18 year old.

Milan Lucic shows his not-so-tender side against the Leafs' Mark Bell.


by desertdawg

A number of years ago, when the Winnipeg Jets were facing the Canucks in the first round of the playoffs, I asked the Jets head coach John Paddock if the fact that his team had not beaten the Canucks during the regular season would be a factor in these playoffs.

He paused, and then somewhat disdainfully said “Anyone in hockey can tell you that the variables that go into winning hockey during the regular season are vast and varied. First off, it’s an extremely long season and there are so many different factors that may show up in any one game. When teams face each other in the regular season, each team has recently faced different opposition, has played more or less games in shorter periods of time and also one team may be travel weary at the end of a road trip, the other team fresh etc, etc. In the playoffs, each team has played the same number of games. At the beginning of a playoff series, both teams are fresh and highly motivated simply by being in the playoffs. As a series wears on, both teams have faced the same difficulties and have developed a healthy dose of hate for each other. There’s little time to build up hate in the regular season when you play a game and move on to the next opponent. We’ll beat the Canucks.”

The Jets proceeded to go up three games to one and Paddock’s statements sounded like an oracle. The fact that the Canucks pulled off a minor miracle (only minor because they were already heavily favored against the Jets) and took the series in seven games. So much for the oracle.

But tonight’s game against Chicago is a good example of some of Paddocks points. Conventional wisdom suggests that the team playing the second game of a back-to-back will have trouble getting their legs going in the first period. They usually do much better in the second period and early in the third before fatigue sets in.

If the first period is any example of the young Blackhawks getting their legs going, then the Canucks are in for a tough time tonight. The Canucks are lucky to be down only two to one with Luongo pulling off a (take your pick here…lucky or miraculous) save that boggles the mind. It easily could have been three to one.

The Canucks are curiously flat the first period. Their forecheck is non-existant. Some might say the first period is a little early to sit back and clog up the neutral zone with a trap.

The most notable thing about the second period is Mason Raymond. Gord Kerster, a friend of mine, who follows both junior and pro hockey more closely than most, had been saying all off-season that this would be Raymond’s breakout year. He certainly has the skills. Because of Salo’s injury, Raymond plays the point on power plays. The pass he makes on Demitra’s goal is sublime. This continues in the second period with some excellent decisions on the point during the PP and his speed causes the Hawks to collapse to the net very quickly, creating a couple of close calls. Speaking of Raymond’s speed, the play he made from his knees in the second was the best non-goal highlight of the season. The kid is missing by inches but he’s not far away from putting it all together.

The second period decides nothing. We still look flat.

The third period now sees the Hawks now laying off the forecheck, clogging up the neutral zone and frustrating the Canucks offensive forays. It might be discouraging for Canuck fans to see a team with so little synchronicity. Every play is an “almost.”

Which means what? The Canucks are just about there? One player added to the top six? It’s what most of us think.

We just need one player.

Well actually, that may be true. I read an article some time ago that did a statistical analysis of the difference between changing the coach vs. adding an impact player. Not surprisingly, adding an impact player was clearly the most successful strategy.

But don’t forget, two years ago, the Canucks had a similar start to this year. There had been a number of changes and the team didn’t really know who it was yet. This year, out of our top twelve forwards, seven were not regulars on the Canucks last year. As John Paddock said, it’s a long season and there are many variables that go into a winning season.

This is not to excuse the flat performance tonight. But I suggest we give this team time to become a team. They aren’t there yet, but there are bright spots. Raymond and Hansen are players that will get better, lots better. Our D and our goaltending will get better. Kesler and Burrows are emerging as core players. The Sedins will click. So ever the optimist, I see bright spots.

Hard to see with all the dark clouds gathering, but they are there.


by Ron Spence

The Canucks have achieved an 8-0-1 record over their past 9 games, and Vancouver has had to halt the fleet of bandwagons, in order to reinforce their springs.

They don’t want to have any breakdowns and traffic jams on Robson St.

But, no matter how the team does this season, I will always remember it as the year that Canucks showed that they have some class.

There are two instances, and peripherally a third one, that make my point.

The first, of course, was the celebration of Luc Bourdon’s life.



The cbc.ca wrote:

Needless to say, Luc’s family were as touched as the Vancouver fans.

“We can say that Shippagan will be joined to Vancouver for a long time,” Luc’s mother, Suzanne told Iain MacIntyre. “People there will never forget this.”

And his girlfriend, Charlene Ward asked: “Please write — we want to say it tomorrow but we’re not going to be able to speak — to say thank you for Suzanne and myself and our family, for what our Canucks did, and the support of the fans, to make Luc’s dream come true.”

The Canucks had done the right thing in celebrating the young player’s life.

The second example of Canucks’ class also concerned players’ dreams.

Jannik Hansen, Mason Raymond, Rick Rypien and Mike Brown had outplayed Matt Pettinger, Jason Krog, and Jeff Cowan, and the Canucks kept the youngsters up on the big team, and sent the underachieving veterans down.

That was because their coach and management had promised that the best would play in the Big Tent, and the other would be sent to the minors, no matter what their contracts were.

The result is that Vancouver is paying a little under $4 million for the three – plus newcomer Michel Oullete – to play in the American Hockey League. Most NHL teams, are keeping the salaries, and dumping their kids back into the minors. And they’re using that old excuse, “It’s business.”

The Canucks are showing class by keeping their word.

Another example of “real class” is Canucks’ former GM, Dave Nonis who came to Vancouver for the Bourdon tribute.

Nonis’ example of class isn’t really a surprise, however. Dave Nonis has always taken the moral high ground.

How important is class and the moral highground? Well, it trickles down to the players.

Suzanne Bourdon said of her son: “But he stays himself. He does not change. Every time he came home, he was a son opening the door, not a hockey player.”

Luc Bourdon, God Bless Him, had learned the importance of class.


by Ron Spence

During Vancouver’s 5-4 win over the Calgary Flames on October 11th, Rick Ripien had a fight and scored a goal. Thus, in two games so far this season, the 5″11″, 170 pounder from Coleman Alberta, has scored 2 goals and been assessed 7 penalty minutes.

Should Rypien continue at this pace, he could become the fourth member of the 30/300 Club.

What is the 30/300 Club? Who is the former Vancouver Canuck who is a member? And, who are the second and third members?

The 30/300 Club consists of any NHL player who has scored 30 goals – and been assessed 300 penalty minutes – during the same season.

The first person to enter into this category – and a Canuck when he did it – was Dave “Tiger” Williams. During the 1980-81 season, the Tiger scored 35 goals and had 343 penalty minutes.

The following – 1981-82 – season, Chicago’s Al Secord scored 44 goals, and totaled 303 penalty minutes.

And, the third – and final – player to join this illustrious group was Philadelphia’s Rick Tocchet, who had 31 goals and 299 [short one] penalty minutes during the 1987-88 season.

Writer’s Note:

I think that the 30/300s should welcome a fourth member.

The Tiger, Secord and Tocchet were all forwards, so scoring 30 goals was considerably easier than a defenseman scoring that many. And Marty McSorley scored 15 goals and had 322 penalty minutes in 1989-90, and scored 15 goals and had 399 penalty minutes during the 1992-93 season.

He should be the 4th member of the group, and Rypien can become the 5th.

The Canucks’ Season Begins: The Secret

by desertdawg

Okay, I admit it. It’s not exactly a secret.

But the reason The Vancouver Canucks have been so successful in the pre-season can be distilled to a couple of things that they did not have last year.

Speed and face offs.

This year’s squad is undeniably faster. Nazzy and Mo used to be amongst our fastest skaters. But Mo has fought off injuries for two years running and anyone watching the game realizes that Nazzy lost a step after the Moore incident.

Certainly the addition of Mason Raymond and Jannik Hansen have improved overall speed. Raymond, of course did play last year, but he was hardly ever used in a top six role. And Hansen was injured before he could complete a successful transition to the NHL.

When the Sedins were first drafted, the knock against them was their foot speed. Typical of their character that they worked so hard to overcome it. They aren’t the fastest, but their improvement is marked and I’ve seen both of them beat defenders to he outside this pre-season.

Pavol Demitra is faster (and certainly quicker) than Nazzy. And Burrows and Kesler were already just about the fastest on the team. Our defense is certainly solid again this year…most could be placed in the mobile category, I suppose, but last year with the injuries decimating the back end, we know for sure that the subs were not quicker of foot than the men they replaced.

This year’s team is an order of magnitude faster, therefore, and I submit (barring catastrophic injuries) that we are playoff bound. Predictions beyond that are too mystical to offer up.

And of course the other area that the Canucks improved is in the face off department. Last year, Byron Ritchie was sent out for the “special draws” in our own end. Hank Sedin and Ryan Kessler made steady improvements throughout the year, but this year they really have arrived. Both are reliably effective. And the addition of Ryan Johnson will pay dividends all through the regular season. This guy will not get noticed by a lot by fans, but he will by the coaching staff and opposing centermen.

So yeah, speed and face offs.

It’s how a remarkably un-physical (okay, you come up with a better word) Detroit team won the Cup…with speed and puck possession. And puck possession starts with winning face-offs. And the little battles, whether it’s Mason Raymond speeding on the back check to strip Getzlaf of the puck or simply Burrows beating the opposition for the puck over and over on the PK, it’s the main ingredients to winning.

And yes, I know the Canucks lost to the Ducks. I’m sure I’m not the only one who realizes that that just takes the pressure off trying to maintain an undefeated record heading into the regular season.


by Ron Spence

If anyone in Canucks’ history deserves to have his number retired, it’s Trevor Linden.

His number will be retired on December 17th and his sweater will hang beside Stan Smyl’s.

Linden finished his career, having played 1138 games – with 318 goals and 415 assists for a total of 733 points. This was 23 behind Markus Naslund for the all time Canucks’ total points.

The Canucks have been far too frugal with their numbers.

They have forgotten Smyl’s old linemate and Canucks’ European scout – for a decade and a half – Thomas Gradin.

The likeable Swede was Vancouver’s leading scorer in both the 1980–81 and the 1981–82 seasons. He was their leading playoff scorer in four playoffs, but most important in their 1982 run to the Cup finals, when he had 19 points in 17 games (He had scored 37 goals that season.).


courtesy of en.wikipedia.org

He was the Canucks’ assist leader for three seasons, and still holds the Canucks’ career points by a centre (550). He is also still tied with Markus Naslund for the most career hat-tricks.

Gradin was Vancouver’s MVP for the 1978-79 season, the Canucks’ Molson Cup winner (1982-83), and the Viking Award Winner for the best Swede in the NHL in 1982.

But most important to Canucks’ fans today, he was the man who discovered future star defenseman, Alex Edler in the wilds of Sweden, and was instrumental in persuading Brian Burke to draft the Sedin twins.

Now, Gradin’s accomplishments as a scout won’t count towards the retirement of his number, but it’s the proverbial icing on the cake of his illustrious career as a Canuck.

P.S. The only problem is that # 23 is now Alexander Edler’s number, but I am sure that he would give it up for the man who discovered him.


Thomas Gradin’s statistics courtesy of:  eurohockey.net

Ron Spence


by Ron Spence

To me Vancouver’s six wins count – as long as they count in the heads of the players.

This is how a winning attitude is developed.

I had talked to Larry Robinson and Dwayne Sutter, and included my interviews with them in earlier posts.

Now, I would like to include more information – on how to develop a culture of winning.

To start with: The Atlanta Braves had won 14 straight titles – largely through their concept of winning.

Below, are the five main points that Atlanta’s manager listed – in The Wall Street Journal – on how to transform a culture of losing.


There’s also some great information on – the cultures of winning and losing – in basketball.

Steve Aschburner, from the Minneapolis Star Tribune, discussed this topic with the Timber Wolves’ new coach, Randy Wittman.


Yes, the six games will count, if Vancouver’s leadership – both on and off the ice – creates a concept of winning that uses these wins as a foundation for the 2008-09 season.