You hear people talk about how there were a big fan of certain things "while they were growing up" and that's just the period I went for when choosing these 5 moments. I was a fresh faced youngster when the Canucks went on their amazing run in '94 (which literally could have filled every spot on this list). How fresh my face was is debatable, but the message is that during that run I became a fan for life. The 10 years of Canucks fandom that followed saw me go from age 8 to 18, 3 feet tall to 6 feet tall and pale skinned to... well that didn't really change.
I decided besides dating back to 1994, a good bookend would be the two lockouts the NHL went through in that 10 year span (1994-95, 2004-05 respectively). So without further delay, lets take a look at my favourite classic Canucks moments.
Moments I can look back on fondly, while blocking out the memory that I wasn't good with girls.
"Nazzy being Nazzy"
During the prime years of the "West Coast Express", the Vancouver Canucks had a legitimate superstar on their team for the first time since Pavel Bure. Markus Naslund, a Hart trophy finalist in 2003 got the team back to respectability after the nightmare that was the Mark Messier era (which I've written about here). With Messier gone, Naslund became team captain and the streak of missing the playoffs came to an end. After entering the postseason as the 8th seed in both 2001 and 2002 (complete with first round exits) the Canucks had their first look at a decent run in 2003. This goal, a big one from game 7 of the first round series against the St. Louis Blues, epitomizes just how quickly Naslund could strike.
He takes a bad pass from Sopel, a quick shuffle step to the net and then bam! Right under the bar. This was my favorite shot of his, ever, and it came in a time where the Canucks had finally started to look like they could go on another run. Something at that point I had waited nearly a decade for.
"Morrison Forces Game 7"
10 years prior, the low seeded Canucks were a team a destiny that had to score in OT, in game 6 against the Calgary Flames to force a game 7. Brendan Morrison (another member of the "West Coast Express") made us all believe the 2004 squad was also a team of destiny. This marathon game just would not end (although the 4 OT epic a few years later against Dallas was really long) but Morrison, some good hands and a parental amount of patience sent this series back to Vancouver for game 7 (see # 4 on the list).
5. Linden Puts Norton Through The Glass, With Class
The year after the '94 run, the Canucks took on the Blues in the first round of the playoffs. The series wasn't all that noteworthy, except for when Trevor Linden decimated Scott Norton through the glass. It was (and still is!) an absolutely amazing hit and a great moment for Canucks fans everywhere (except those in the front row). I think my favourite thing about this is how concerned Trevor Linden was after the hit for the spectators and for Norton, whose career he had just immortalized. Linden remains one of the most beloved Canucks of all time, and Scott Norton remains a trivia answer.
4. "Matt Cooke Cashes In"
This is the longest video on this list, and for good reason. The whole 4 minutes is required to tell just how awesome a moment this was. The game came on the heels of Brendan Morrison's game 6 triple overtime heroics. Late in the game, down a goal and facing elimination, Ed Jovonovski got a little, how should I say? "cross checky" to the back of Rhett Warrener's head and was obviously given a penalty. I know, Conspiracy Fan, I couldn't believe it either (even back then the refs were out to get us). The Canucks appeared to be doomed.
Iginla misses empty net. Naslund goes into "lingonberry jam mode" (which I'm assuming is the Swedish equivalent to "beast mode") and scrappy little Matt Cooke cashes in a rebound and ties the game with 5.7 left. Jovonovski jumping like the rest of the fans while in the penalty box remains iconic, even though Martin Gelinas ('94 hero, '04 dream-killer) scored in overtime while the Canucks were still killing off Jovo's penalty.
Still though, how great was that?!
3. "Return of the King"
A big part of the Canucks resurgence as a contender was the third member of the "West Coast Express" Todd Bertuzzi, whom the Canucks acquired in a trade with the New York Islanders on February 6th, 1998. While in hindsight it was a great move and brought about many positive changes for the Canucks, at the time it was met with skepticism and sadness (common feelings during that era). Longtime fan favorite Trevor Linden, after trying valiantly to save the Canucks from the evil forces now in charge (Mark Messier and Mike Keenen), was shipped off to the Islanders.
Trevor Linden remained in exile for several years, making stops in Montreal and Washington. Just over 10 years ago on November 10, 2001, the architect of the Canucks rebirth, Brian Burke, endeared himself to the entire city forever (well, for a while at least) by trading a couple draft picks and bringing Trevor Linden back to Vancouver. It was one of the best moments in my time as a Canucks fans that didn't involve anything on the ice. The only thing that would have made it better is if Messier and Keenan were traded to the Islanders for Linden on February 7th 1998.
Trevor Linden would wind his career down over the next several seasons with the Canucks. He was nowhere near the player he was before he left but his leadership and work ethic set an example and he spent those seasons mentoring the Canucks stars of the future, an effort which is still being felt today.
Seriously, the guy could run for Mayor on a platform of "being mean to puppies" and win by a landslide. The people love him and it just goes to show you how a player's worth cannot be measured in points alone.
2. "The Save"
Ask me tomorrow, this will be #1. Ask me the following day, it will be back in the number 2 spot. That is how hard it is for me to decide between this moment and the one that follows....
1. "Brown, ahead for Bure... "
"... Bure going in! HE SCORES!!"
And with that, I had to come to grips with the fact that the first thing I loved other than my parents was a hockey team. As I said above, it is nearly impossible to choose between the incredible goal and the epic save, but one thing today that puts the goal at number one is this:
McLean kept us in the battle, but Bure wielded the dagger that ended it.
For days, weeks and months after this goal, me and my friends would re-enact the moment wherever and whenever we could, and I'm positive we weren't the only ones. During gym class, street hockey games or that really weird baseball game I had once, every chance we had to imitate the deke we took it.
That is one thing that helps make this such an iconic and impactful moment for me. It captured the hearts of a generation of young hockey fans and is a definitive moment where a lot of us began our love of the Canucks, just as I imagine there is a generation of Canucks fans who re-enacted Tiger Williams riding his stick.
Or a generation of fans who have been there since the beginning, who have fond memories of Orland Kurtenbach.
It's a generational thing. I'd like to think that somewhere in Surrey on that day in 1994, Canucks prospect Prab Rai (who would've been 5 at the time) saw Bure score that goal and that's when he knew he wanted to be a hockey player. Or better yet, that's when he knew he wanted to be a Canuck. That's how I felt at the time, unfortunately I was a garbage hockey player as a kid.
Before I go, I want to leave you with what is by far my favourite Canucks picture ever and a moment that encapsulates everything I loved about that scrappy underdog '94 team, but also everything I love about sports. The heart, the exhaustion, the desperation, it's very poetic and one day I play to have a framed (autographed) picture of it hanging up in my house. Otherwise I wouldn't consider it a home fit to live in or raise a family in.
Thanks for reading.