Vancouver Canucks | The Canadian Encyclopedia


Vancouver Canucks

The Vancouver Canucks are a franchise in the National Hockey League. The team had been a member of the Pacific Coast Hockey League, and then the Western Hockey League, since 1945.
Vancouver Canucks Logo
The NHL logo of the Vancouver Canucks.
2011 Stanley Cup Finals
The Vancouver Canucks face off against the Boston Bruins in game 4 of the 2011 Stanley Cup finals (courtesy Vancouver Sun).

The Vancouver Canucks are a franchise in the National Hockey League, located in Vancouver, British Columbia. The team was a member of the Pacific Coast Hockey League (beginning in 1945) and then the Western Hockey League before joining the NHL in 1970. Although the Canucks have made the Stanley Cup Finals on three occasions (1982, 1994 and 2011), they have yet to win the Cup.

Quick Facts about the Vancouver Canucks
Date Founded:
1945 (Pacific Coast Hockey League); 1952 (Western Hockey League); 1970 (National Hockey League)
Venue: Rogers Arena
Team Colours: Blue, green and white
Stanley Cup Victories: 0
Mascot: Fin the Whale

Professional Hockey in Vancouver

The first professional hockey team in Vancouver was the Vancouver Millionaires, one of the original three teams in the Pacific Coast Hockey Association (PCHA). The PCHA was founded in 1911–12 by Lester and Frank Patrick, who instituted a number of rule changes that made the game of hockey much more exciting. Some of these changes included adding the blue line, line changes, the forward pass and allowing a goalie to leave his feet to make a save. They also succeeded in drawing some of the greatest hockey players of the era (such as Fred “Cyclone” Taylor, Edouard “Newsy” Lalonde and Albert Kerr) to the new league, showing that it could compete with the established leagues in the East.

From 1914 to 1921, the Stanley Cup was awarded to the winner of a five-game series between the champions of the National Hockey Association (NHA) and the PCHA. In total, the Millionaires played for the Stanley Cup five times, but only won it once. In 1914–15, the Millionaires, led by the legendary Fred “Cyclone” Taylor, won the Stanley Cup at home in a three-game sweep of the Ottawa Senators. At the time, Frank Patrick was serving as league president, team general manager, head coach and star defenceman. Seven players on the Millionaires’ roster that season have since been inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame.

The Millionaires changed their name to the Maroons in 1922–23. After the PCHA disbanded in 1924, the Maroons played two more seasons in the Western Canada Hockey League (1924–25) and the Western Hockey League (1925–26) before both the league and the team were disbanded in 1926.

Vancouver Millionaires in Hockey Hall of Fame

Name Position Year Inducted
Tommy “Nibs” Phillips Right Wing/Left Wing 1945
Frederick “Cyclone” Taylor Centre/Rover 1947
Frank Nighbor Centre 1947
Edouard “Newsy” Lalonde Centre/Rover 1950
Silas Seth “Si” Griffis Rover/Defenceman 1950
Duncan “Mickey” Mackay Centre/Rover 1952
Hughie “Old Eagle Eyes” Lehman Goaltender 1958
Frank Patrick Builder 1958
John James “Jack” Adams Centre 1959
Didier Pitre Right Wing 1962
Rusty Crawford Left Wing 1962
Russell “Barney” Stanley Right Wing 1962
Gordon Roberts Left Wing 1971

The Vancouver Canucks (1945–70)

Vancouver welcomed minor professional hockey in 1945 with the introduction of the Vancouver Canucks and the Pacific Coast Hockey League. The Canucks claimed two championships before the league was renamed the Western Hockey League (WHL) in 1952–53. In the WHL, the team won an additional four titles, including back-to-back championships in 1968–69 and 1969–70 (their final two years in the league). Five Canucks players from the WHL period would later be inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame. The owner of the franchise, Fred Hume, was also inducted into the Hall of Fame in the builder category.

National Hockey League (1970–81)

In 1967, the NHL added six new franchises, doubling the size of the league. Vancouver bid for one of the new teams, but was rejected by the NHL. The rejection was due to both the quality of the proposal and resistance from Toronto and Montréal, both of whom didn’t want to share television revenue with a third Canadian team. In 1968, Vancouver again tried to obtain a team by offering to buy the struggling Oakland Seals and relocate them to Vancouver. The NHL wanted to avoid the embarrassment of Oakland (a new franchise) relocating so quickly, so they helped keep the team in Oakland and promised Vancouver that it would be awarded a franchise the next time there was an expansion.

For a price of $6 million, the Vancouver Canucks joined the NHL on 22 May 1970 as an expansion franchise. They played their first home game on 9 October 1970 in the Pacific Coliseum (built 1968), and went on to accumulate 56 points for a sixth-place finish in the seven-team East Division under coach Hal Laycoe and general manager Bud Poile.

In 1974, team ownership was transferred from the Medicor Corporation of Minneapolis to a group of Vancouver businessmen headed by Frank Griffiths. The Canucks had a remarkable performance in 1974–75, their first winning season with 86 points and their first Smythe Division Championship. The team went back to its mediocre play shortly afterward. From 1976 to 1981 they made the playoffs four times, but were beaten in the preliminary round each time.

Stanley Cup Run 1982

In 1982, they made a surprising advance through the playoffs after finishing the regular season with only 77 points. The Canucks defeated the Calgary Flames 3–0 in the division semi-final series and faced the Los Angeles Kings in the second round. The Kings had just defeated the powerful Edmonton Oilers in one of the greatest upsets in NHL history. However, the Canucks easily dispatched the Kings 4–1 in the series. In the next round, the Canucks faced the Chicago Blackhawks, who had upset the Minnesota North Stars in the opening round. The upset of the Oilers and North Stars meant that the Canucks could win the conference without ever facing the two strongest teams. The Canucks quickly beat the Blackhawks in five games as well. This set up a Stanley Cup final against the New York Islanders, who would be the first dominant team they faced in the playoffs. The New York Islanders had led the NHL in regular season points, and had only lost four games in the playoff run. The Vancouver Canucks were clearly overmatched, losing four straight games to the Islanders in the Stanley Cup final.

Decline and Rebuilding (1982–93)

Following their improbable playoff run in 1982, the Canucks quickly fell into decline again. They made the playoffs the next two seasons, but were defeated in the opening round by the Calgary Flames both times. In the next six seasons they would miss the playoffs four times, with the exceptions being the 1986 and 1989 playoffs where they were speedily dispatched by the Edmonton Oilers and Calgary Flames respectively, both of whom were at the pinnacle of their success in the 1980s.

The Canucks began a rebuilding program in 1988 under their new general manager, Pat Quinn. The highlight of this process was when the Canucks drafted Pavel Bure in 1989. Bure began playing with the Canucks in 1991–92, winning the Calder Trophy as the top rookie in the NHL, and immediately becoming the most electric scorer in franchise history. The “Russian Rocket” recorded back-to-back 60 goal campaigns in only his second and third seasons in the league.

Results of the rebuild were evident in 1991–92, when the team won their division for the first time since 1974–75 and finished with the fourth-best record in the entire league. The following season they recorded one of their best seasons ever with 101 points in 84 games. Both seasons saw the Canucks fall in the division finals in the playoffs.

Stanley Cup Run 1994

In 1993–94, led by Bure and captain Trevor Linden, the Canucks finished the regular season with 85 points — good enough for seventh in the conference. In the first round of the playoffs they faced the Calgary Flames and lost three straight games to fall behind 3–1 in the series. The Canucks clawed their way back into the series, winning each of the final three games in overtime. The next two rounds against Dallas and Toronto didn’t pose much of a threat, as the Canucks prevailed in each by a count of four games to one. This set up a Stanley Cup final matchup against the New York Rangers, who were led by Brian Leetch and Mark Messier. Just as they had done against Calgary, the Canucks soon fell behind 3–1 in the series. They fought back to tie the series, but were unable to complete the comeback, falling in game seven by a score of 3–2.

A Weakened Franchise (1995–99)

In the lockout-shortened 1994–95 season, the Canucks made it to the second round of the playoffs, but were eliminated by the Chicago Blackhawks. From 1996–97 to 1999–2000 the team floundered and failed to make the playoffs; meanwhile attendance was declining. At the same time, the team had a strained relationship with Pavel Bure. Bure was upset about how he had been treated by Vancouver management, especially during several bitter contract negotiations. After the 1997–98 season, Bure informed the team that he was not going to play for them again, despite being under contract. The Canucks finally traded him to the Florida Panthers on 17 January 1999. Among other players, Trevor Linden was also traded in the late 1990s, weakening the struggling franchise even further.

Changing Fortunes (2000–10)

Two key player moves changed the fortunes of the franchise. In 1999, the club traded up in the NHL draft to select Swedish twins Daniel and Henrik Sedin second and third overall. After playing in the shadow of fellow Swede Markus Naslund (the team’s leading scorer each year from 1999 to 2006), the twins emerged as stars in the 2005–06 season. Since 2006–07 the Sedins have finished first and second in team scoring every season. Henrik led the NHL in scoring in the 2009–10 season, winning the Art Ross Trophy (for leading scorer) and Hart Trophy (league MVP). The following season, Daniel won the Art Ross Trophy as well. Daniel and Henrik are the only pair of brothers in league history to have both claimed the award.

The second move came in 2006, when the Canucks traded for goaltender Roberto Luongo. Luongo was one of the league's top netminders and gave the team stability where they had lacked it. He was the winning goaltender for the men's Olympic hockey team at the 2010 Olympics in Vancouver.

Stanley Cup Run 2011

The team's 40th anniversary season in 2010–11 was the Canucks' most successful season in over a decade. They set a franchise record with 117 points in the regular season, winning the Presidents’ Trophy for the first time in team history. In the first round of the playoffs, the Canucks faced the defending champion Chicago Blackhawks. After leaping to a quick 3–0 series lead, the Canucks were beaten in humiliating fashion the next two games by a combined score of 12–2. They regained some composure, losing game six in overtime, before closing out the series with an overtime win in game 7. In the second round they faced the Nashville Predators without any major scares, defeating them in six games. Picking up momentum, it only took the Canucks five games to eliminate the San Jose Sharks in the conference finals, earning a place in the Stanley Cup finals for the first time since 1994. The Canucks won the first two games of the series in Vancouver, but were crushed 8–1 and 4–0 in the next two games in Boston. They responded with a 1–0 victory to take a 3–2 series lead, but were unable to close out the Bruins, ultimately losing game seven on home ice by a 4–0 score.

Afterwards, some fans rioted in the streets, burning several police cars, overturning vehicles, smashing windows and causing millions of dollars in property damage. A similar riot had occurred in 1994 as well, when the Canucks lost to the New York Rangers.

History Since 2012

The following season (2011–12), the Canucks again won the Presidents’ Trophy, but lost in the first round of the playoffs. They made it to the first round again in 2012–13 but missed the playoffs entirely in 2013–14. The Sedin twins remained the unquestioned offensive leaders of the club, but finding secondary players to complement them proved to be a struggle for the Canucks.

In the 2012 playoffs, Vancouver became home to a goalie controversy when Roberto Luongo was replaced as starting goalie by backup Cory Schneider in the first round against Los Angeles. Luongo became the subject of trade rumours for almost two years before being traded in 2014 to the Florida Panthers. Cory Schneider was traded to New Jersey in 2013. To fill the void in net, the Canucks signed veteran goalie Ryan Miller in July 2014 to form a goaltending tandem with young starter Eddie Lack.

The Canucks returned to the playoffs the following year, under new head coach Willie Desjardins, but were stunned in the first round by the upstart Calgary Flames. In the off-season, Lack was traded to the Carolina Hurricanes in June 2015 — an unpopular move with fans. The Vancouver team failed to reach the playoffs in 2015–16. After a disastrous 2016–17 season, with the Canucks scoring just 182 goals — the lowest total in franchise history — Desjardins was replaced as head coach by Travis Green.

In 2016–17, Bo Horvat led the team in scoring with 52 points, marking the first time since 2005–06 that a Sedin did not lead the team in scoring. In 2017–18, rookie forward Brock Boeser (23rd overall in 2015) led the team in scoring with 29 goals and 55 points, despite only playing in 62 games. That season, Jacob Markstrom took over in net after Ryan Miller left in free agency. These developments did not translate into regular season success, though, as the Canucks missed the playoffs for the third consecutive year.

However, these disappointments gave the Canucks a chance to rebuild through the NHL Entry Draft. This allowed the team to add defence prospects Olli Juolevi (fifth overall in 2016) and Quinn Hughes (seventh overall in 2018), along with forward Elias Pettersson (fifth overall in 2017).

Following the 2017–18 season, the Sedins retired from professional hockey after spending their entire 17-year careers in Vancouver. They hold the franchise records for goals, assists and points.

In 2017, Forbes magazine pegged the value of the hockey club at $730 million. The Canucks are owned by Canucks Sports and Entertainment, which is headed by Francesco Aquilini. The team plays at the Rogers Arena (formerly General Motors Place, 1995–2010), which seats 18,860 for hockey.

Hall of Famers

Name Position Year Inducted
Fred J. Hume Owner 1962
John William “Johnny” Bower Goaltender 1976
Andrew James “Andy” Bathgate Right Wing 1978
Lorne John “Gump” Worsley Goaltender 1980
Allan Herbert Stanley Defence 1981
John Calverley “Jake” Milford General Manager 1984
Anthony James “Tony” Esposito Goaltender 1988
Norman R. “Bud” Poile General Manager 1990
Frank A. Griffiths Owner 1993
Roger Neilson Head Coach 2002
Cam Neely Right Wing 2005
Mark Messier Centre 2007
Igor Larionov Centre 2008
Pavel Bure Right Wing 2012
Mats Sundin Centre 2012
Pat Quinn Defence, Coach 2016 (inducted as builder)

Stanley Cup Finals

2011 Stanley Cup Finals
Vancouver Canucks vs Boston Bruins

Game One: Vancouver 1, Boston 0
Game Two: Vancouver 3, Boston 2 (OT)
Game Three: Boston 8, Vancouver 1
Game Four: Boston 4, Vancouver 0
Game Five: Vancouver 1, Boston 0
Game Six: Boston 5, Vancouver 2
Game Seven: Boston 4, Vancouver 0

Boston wins the series 4–3, and the Stanley Cup

1994 Stanley Cup Finals
Vancouver Canucks vs New York Rangers

Game One: Vancouver 3, New York 2 (OT)
Game Two: New York 3, Vancouver 1
Game Three: New York 5, Vancouver 1
Game Four: New York 4, Vancouver 2
Game Five: Vancouver 6, New York 3
Game Six: Vancouver 4, New York 1
Game Seven: New York 3, Vancouver 2

New York Rangers win the series 4–3, and the Stanley Cup

1982 Stanley Cup Finals
Vancouver Canucks vs New York Islanders

Game One: New York 6, Vancouver 5 (OT)
Game Two: New York 6, Vancouver 4
Game Three: New York 3, Vancouver 0
Game Four: New York 3, Vancouver 1

New York Islanders win series 4–0, and the Stanley Cup

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