Vancouver Canucks Hockey History: *My* Top 5 Fan Moments in Time

Tears of happiness…

I was recently asked to name my top five Canucks moments of all time and by all-time, I mean all-time of my life. In now twenty three years of what has been an existence dedicated to the ever changing prism of Canucks colours, I still await that one moment to sit at the top above all the rest where a Canucks Captain is raising the cup.

A moment in time from the exterior of my lifespan could filter in because of how it’s affected my fandom at this current day and age, so bear with me and find out what made the top five.

Let’s get started and work our way down to numero uno.

5. Dave Babych plays # 1000

I was fortunate enough to attend Dave Babych’s 1000thgame played with my Dad before he passed away in 1997, and that’s not the only reason why this moment in time was significant. This was the confirmation of a great NHL’er.

Dave Babych with the Canucks during the 1997-1998 NHL season.

It was February 7th, 1996 and a 5-3 loss to Dave’s former team, the Hartford Whalers. Babs had 0 points and was a -3 but it was just a really cool thing to see the 1000th game of a future Ring of Honouree.

Obviously, there was no such thing at the time but it’s pretty clear to me that the man who sits 13th all-time in Vancouver Canucks scoring by defensemen will be honoured at some point down the road.

Drafted 2nd overall in 1980 by the Jets, Babych only actually played 409 games for Vancouver, but recorded 23 goals and 131 assists in that span. He also had 13 power-play goals to go alone with a stats line of 21-41-62 in 114 playoff games as a Canuck. Those playoff points include 3 goals and 5 assists in the 1994 run to the Cup Finals.

Additionally, he is now an assistant director of player personnel with the Mike Gillis led Canucks.

4. Roger Neilson Surrendering

I hinted there may be a moment from outside my life that has affected me enough to make this list. This of course took place 7 years before I was born in 1989, but the way towel power has rippled through the generations of Canucks fans is incomparable.

Most Canucks will know this story but for the sake of this article, we shall re-hash. In a 1982 playoff game against the Chicago Blackhawks, Neilson felt his squad was being unfairly penalized and proceeded to wave a white towel on the end of a hockey stick. The few players who followed along with the same action and Neilson were henceforth ejected from the game.

However from then on, towel power as it is now known bring an added level of fever to each playoff game held at Rogers Arena. We see it at other arenas around the league as they mock our tradition, but there’s no denying that moment in time will go down in Canucks history as one of the greatest ever.

3. “…And the Canucks will play for the Stanley Cup.”

A lot of people might be hoping that since I was born in ’89, there may be a couple moments in here from the ’94 run but I will be completely honest. At 5 years old, I don’t remember much first-hand so it wouldn’t really be fair to me to use those.

The current amalgamation of the Canucks is where some of my fondest memories come from and at number three is Kevin Bieksa’s game five double overtime goal against San Jose to send Vancouver to their 3rd Stanley Cup Final. The way the goal happened was something that I’m not sure could be replicated in 1000 years. Literally 95% of the people in Rogers Arena didn’t know where the puck was when it came to the blade of Juice’s stick and he sent it fluttering past Antii Niemi to win the series.

Perhaps the greatest part of this moment in time isn’t even the winning goal but how everything came to that point. It was the Canucks who were down with under a minute to go and this happened:

2. “…26.1 on the clock; 5 skaters to 4…”

You may notice a pattern once we’re through with number two which comes way back in the 2004 playoffs, game 7 of the opening round versus Calgary. To start, let’s just forget about the fact that Markus Naslund is my all-time favourite player. This moment would be just as awesome if it didn’t involve him.

matt cooke

Matt Cooke in his later days with the Canucks

Vancouver, down a goal with less than a minute to go in game 7 and their backup Alex Auld in net but pulled, scored to tie with 5.7 seconds remaining. The puck hit the back of the net after Markus Naslund streaked down the left side from his own blueline, evaded a hip check at the Flames blueline and cut to the net with a weak shot that rebounded right to Matt Cooke who buried it.

I mentioned a pattern and this is where we see it. It’s all about what occurs before the goal much like how Ryan Kesler ties the game against San Jose prior to Bieksa scoring the winner.

Before Matt Cooke of all people scores the miracle goal, 5 things happen. The first is with Auld pulled for the 6 on 5 advantage; Ed Jovanovski takes a high-sticking penalty. This leaves the Canucks down a man but forced to keep the goalie pulled for even strength. The next thing is as you’ll see in the video below, the next faceoff initially features Brendan Morrison on the left wing and Henrik Sedin at Center. Marc Crawford calls Sedin off, moves B-Mo to the middle, leaves Nazzy on the right side and throws who on to the left wing? Matt freakin’ Cooke.

The next incredible thing is Jarome Iginla missing a relatively simple backhand from the blueline into the open net which would have essentially iced the game putting Calgary up by two. Then there is the debris thrown on the ice. No it didn’t touch the puck but that’s exactly why it’s significant. If the arse who threw it to try and stop the puck had actually hit it, we’re looking at probably a bench minor and the Canucks down 5 on 4 even with the net pulled.

Lastly, Brendan Morrison slashing the stick out of Jarome Iginla’s hand, causing him to lose balance and fall on his behind, leaving him to back-check with no stick and not able to properly check Matt Cooke right before he scores the tying goal. Perhaps the greatest moment of the video you’re about to see is JovoCop at the 3:40 mark in the penalty box. Have a look for yourself:

“It’s a wonderful day for an exorcism.”

I’ve got a good feeling this will be the number one moment in time for an entire generation of Canucks fans. Sure Kevin Bieksa’s goal was to send the team to the Stanley Cup Final but the magnitude of a loss in Game 7 against Chicago compared to what a loss in Game 5 vs. San Jose would have felt like is what propels this one to the top of my list.

I don’t need to go through the play for anyone but I will really try to impress on you how much this really does take the cake as my number one moment in time for the Canucks. My ringtone since last summer has been, “Campoli trying to clear it, Burrows, shoots, SCOOOORES!!!”

alex burrows

Burrows just after scoring the Game 7 winner (Photo - Mark van Manen/PNG)

Furthermore, when Burrows sent the puck up and over Corey Crawford that fateful evening, I quite literally jumped over a chair in excitement. I’m honestly sitting here now writing this wondering why I’m not representing Canada in London this summer for the high jump competition.

Alas, we see this pattern again. It’s all about what happens before the goal is scored. We could include the way the series went with the Canucks going up 3-0 and then losing 3 straight but let’s just focus on Game 7. This game revolved almost completely around Alex Burrows.

Alex Burrows scored the opening goal 2:43 into the game.

Alex Burrows has a penalty shot 21 seconds into the 3rd period which would have given the Canucks a 2-0 lead.

Alex Burrows, who hardly ever gets PP time, was front and center when Jonathan Toews scored shorthanded with 1:56 to go in regulation to send the game to OT.

Alex Burrows took a holding minor in Game 7 Sudden Death Overtime just 24 seconds in.

Alex Burrows THEN scored the game and series winner 5:22 into the period.

If Alex Burrows or Captain Clutch as I call him doesn’t score that goal and Chicago goes on to win, we’re not talking about whether or not Alain Vigneault is going to be re-signed this off-season; he’s gone last off-season.

So there you have, my top five moments in time for what is essentially the Canucks last 30 years of existence.

Honourable Mentions

I have two honourable mentions which go to Markus Naslund’s number being retired and Brendan Morrison’s Triple OT goal against Calgary in Game 6 of the same series Matt Cooke scored that buzzer beater. You can see the Morrison goal below:

Please feel free to add your own even if they are from outside the range I’ve stayed within. This is by no means a complete list of the greatest moments in Canucks history but just a look at how some moments have really changed and motivated me as a Canucks fan through and through.


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About Josh Hall

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