It's not easy to pick on the Canucks. They're just too lovable in a kicked around kid brother kinda way. Their ups and downs have been endearing to all of Canada. Few have had a hate on for our west coast wannabes other than series versus Calgary over the years. Even that venom didn't last long. As the third oldest Canadian team in seniority, they've suffered their fair share of hard luck. Here are ten random facts comprising the good, the bad, and the ugly, from 36 years of Canuckism.
10 - The Wheel of Furtune. Prior to their initial season, a wheel spin decided who would grab Gilbert Perrault first overall. The Canucks lost and choose Dale Tallon 2nd. Not a terrible way to start a franchise, but hindsight reared it's ugly little head down the road. Tallon became an adequate if not quite offensive defenseman. Picked 3rd and 4th that year were future 50 goal men Reggie Leach and Rick MacLeish. Don't feel bad, they were drafted by the Bruins and not the Flyers who they eventually won Cups with. This might make you feel even better, or not. Montreal chose two zeros in the 5th and 6th spot. Toronto made their best pick in franchise history that year also. Taken eighth, Darryl Sittler. Oops, oops, and ouch!
9 - Who designed these things? Andy Warhol. The most brutal of jerseys have been worn on the coast. It took some a decade to realize that the Nucks original green and blue logo was in reality a stylized "C". To most it just looked like a rink! Its simplicity is actually quite endearing as the new vintage jerseys attest. Make them permanent please! Next up was the big "V" on a yellow jersey without a logo. Now I've always believed yellow should stay on Big Bird, piss and mustard, not on anything to do with hockey. They then kept the color scheme, toned down the mustard and made the home sweaters white, and added the ridiculous logo of a skate going downhill. The last decade has seen it go back to a stylized "C", only this time the logo is half eaten up by an Orca whale. Keep trying!
8 - The Neilson Towel of Surrender. In the Canucks '82 Cup run, coach Neilson waved the white flag at referees and endeared himself to all of Canada with the gesture. Vancouver was outmatched in the end by the Islanders dynasty in the making. Nevertheless, they battled hard and made the country proud. Unfortunately, Neilson gave way to Harry Neale the following year. OK, that makes us even!
7 - Jason Herter. Who you say? Best thing to be said about the guy, is with a name like that, at least he was never arrested for spousal abuse. Herter was the Canucks 1st round pick in '89, 8th overall. His only claim to fame was a dubious one - for well over a decade he was the last top 10 pick to have never appeared in a single NHL game. His career trail is a downward spiral through the minor leagues. Who else could this happen to but the Canucks? They made amends commendably four rounds later, taking one of the most exciting players in NHL history 113th. The Russian Rocket, Pavel Bure was the Canucks first true superstar, surpassing the 50 goal plateau 4 times. The first recipient worthy of the Rocket Richard Trophy.
6 - Orland Kurtenback, the Nucks first captain and third coach, nurtured the early history of the team. He had toiled previously with the Rangers and was picked up in the expansion draft. Injuries cut his career short, but until then he was a well respected two way player who put up decent stats. What may be forgotten about the Big O was that he is reputed to be the best fighter in NHL history. So feared was he, that he faced few challengers after destroying a dozen unsuspecting goons in his earlier years. Even John Ferguson learned a lesson from him and steered clear. It is told that certain coaches wouldn't let their players challenge him for the sake of giving their team a boost - it simply wasn't going to work out that way. Kurt had the habit of drawing blood on the first lick like no one before or since. After rearranging a couple of faces in his first Canuck years he settled into sweater tugging by the time the Broad Street Bullies were at their peak. All in all, a mysterious hockey gentleman.
5 - Marc Crawford, recently canned coach of Canucks, played for 6 seasons with the big team where he was sent to the minors at least two dozen times. The farm team at the time was in Fredricton N.B. He began his coaching career there while still a player and the following season in Milwaukee. He won back to back Memorial Cups in '80 and '81 while playing for my hometown Cornwall Royals. Two years later he married my reason for joining the social committee, Helene Campeau, who like a great woman, stuck with him through all the travels. Craws most infamous moment came when he ended the career of the Bruins Normand Leveillee with a solid hit against the boards. It could be suggested that Crawford, who is a pussycat when not behind the bench, was never the same player again. His junior linemate was none other than Dale Hawerchuk.
4 - Two of my other favorite Canucks also played for the Royals. Both starred in Cup runs. The revered King Richard Brodeur and the post pinging Nathan LaFayette. LaFayette's crossbar heard cross Canada almost capped a surging Canucks Cup run in 1994. Damn, he had Richter beat!
3 - Cam Neely. Astutely drafted 8th overall in '83 by the team, Neely took three season to become a regular. GM Harry Neale likely couldn't believe his ears when Harry Sinden, GM of the Bruins came asking for the wingers services and offered star Barry Peterson. The Bruin had started his career with seasons of 96, 107, and 116 pts. Neale jumped at the deal. Pederson became slowed by injuries after posting 76 and 71 points for the Canucks. Neale threw into the deal a first rounder that turned out to be Glen Wesley. As Pederson's star dimmed, Neely' shone. He came to personify the term power forward in an illustrious career. Again, doesn't this just seem to happen to the Canucks.
2 - The Bertuzzi incident. Hockey most shameful incident played out before disbelieving Nucks fans. Bert, teamed with Markus Naslund, was on his way to a brilliant career. He will now forever be linked with this sad happening. Too bad, the fans deserved better than having to stand up for the coward.
1 - Fleeced by the Canucks. Not often has it happened, but two of the most one-sided trades in history went Vancouvers way. Catching a forever dim Mike Milbury, The Canucks sent captain Linden to the Isles for three players who would be pivotal in their success for years - Bertuzzi, Bryan McCabe and a pick that became Jarkko Ruutuu. McCabe helped to land the Sedins while Bertuzzi recently fetched them Roberto Luongo, who Milbury let get away years before. The other robbery was the Naslund deal. Markus was just coming into his own as a player when the Penguins came calling asking for toughness in the name of Alex Stojanov. The Nucks captain is the NHL's top scorer over the past 4 seasons while Stojanov is a carpenter in Hamilton. Word has it he struggles with dove-tail joints.