The Vancouver Canucks were founded in 1970 by Thomas Scallen, Lyman Walters and partners as an NHL expansion franchise. But hockey had been part of Vancouver far earlier, with the Vancouver Millionaries of the Pacific Coast Hockey League winning the Stanley Cup in 1915. The team's first general manager was Norman "Bud" Poile and he selected former NHL defenseman Hal Laycoe to be the Canucks first coach. The Vancouver Canucks played their first game in the fall of 1970, losing 3-1 to the Los Angeles Kings. They would finish out of the playoffs in their inaugural season and struggled for the next couple of years. Their first taste of postseason play came in the 1975 playoffs when the Canucks took on the powerhouse Montreal Canadiens. The Canadiens had owned the Canucks in the regular season and continued to roll through the playoffs, handing Vancouver a 4-1 defeat in the first round.
Through the mid-late 1970s, the Canucks were in and out of the postseason hunt, usually losing out in the first round. Despite a succession of coaches that included Bill McCreary, Phil Maloney, Orland Kurtenbach and Harry Neale, the Canucks continued to struggle through the 1981-82 season. Harry Neale was suspended ten games for taking on some fans in Quebec and his assistant Roger Neilson took over behind the bench. Led by the likes of Stan Smyl, Ivan Bordirev, Richard Brodeur, and Thomas Gradin, Vancouver disposed of Calgary, Los Angeles and Chicago to face off against with the powerhouse New York Islanders in the Stanley Cup finals. The Islanders though made short work of the Canucks, sweeping them in four straight games. The team's success from 1982 did not carry forward as they barely made the playoffs in the subsequent years and never made it past the first round. A turning point for Vancouver occurred in 1987 when the team hired Pat Quinn as president and general manager. Since Quinn was still under contract with the Los Angeles Kings, the Canucks paid a fine and brought the ex-NHLer aboard to turn the ship around. In his first amateur entry draft as GM he selected Trevor Linden with the second overall pick. Linden joined the NHL in 1988 as the youngest player in the league and made an immediate impact, finishing as runner up for the Calder Trophy as the league's outstanding rookie. The team allowed the fewest goals in the regular season but were bumped off in the first round of the playoffs by the eventual Stanley Cup champions, the Calgary Flames.
In the following offseason the Canucks signed Soviet star Igor Larianov and drafted his young and upcoming comrade, Pavel Bure. Bure joined the Canucks for the 1991-92 season, broke captain Trevor Linden's mark of goals by a rookie with 34, and was soon dubbed the "Russian Rocket" for his blazing speed and scoring abilities. That season saw the Canucks finish first in the Smythe division, Bure win the Calder Trophy and Pat Quinn, who had added the coaching duties, take home the Jack Adams award as best coach in the NHL. In postseaon play the Canucks would squeak by the Winnipeg Jets in seven before losing the Edmonton Oilers. The Canucks were on a roll as they finished on top the Smythe division the next year, with Pavel Bure leading the way scoring 60 goals and adding 50 assists. Playoff success though was still limited to the second round as the Canucks were defeated by the Los Angeles Kings. Bure would repeat his 60 goal performance in 1993-94 and the Canucks faced off against the Calgary Flames in the conference quarter finals. After disposing of the Flames and then the Dallas Stars, the Canucks faced off against their Eastern rivals, the Toronto Maple Leafs in the Campbell conference final. Goalie Kirk McLean shutout the Leafs in back-to-back games and Vancouver advanced to the Stanley Cup finals in five games. The finals saw them go up against the New York Rangers with the Canucks taking the first game in overtime. New York though would come right back with three straight victories before the Canucks evened up the series to send it to game seven in at Madison Square Gardens. The Canucks fell short as the Rangers defeated them 3-2 to win their first cup in over fifty years, and extended the Cancuks drought for Lord Stanley's cup.
Changes continued in Vancouver as John McCaw purchased majority interest in the team, Pavel Bure was reunited with his junior teammate Alexander Mogilny, and the Canucks moved into a brand new facility - General Motors Place. The Canucks found themselves out of the Stanley Cup race early one, losing to the Avalanche in the first round. Pat Quinn continued to make changes as he brought in Tom Renney as coach; an experiement that would eventually fail. As the Canucks struggled on the ice, Mark Messier was signed as a free agent in the off-season. The 1997-98 regular season with Messier did not prove to be a great success and Pat Quinn was relieved of all his roles with the team. Mike Keenan had a stint on the west coast and in the summer of 1998 Brian Burke returned from his position at the NHL head office to right the floundering Cancucks ship. With financial concerns abound, the Canucks trimmed their roster of many of the higher priced players. Pavel Bure was traded to the Florida Panthers for a package of players that featured future star defenseman Ed Jovanovski. Mike Keenan was next in line, fired and replaced by ex-Colorado Avalanche coach Mark Crawford.
The Canucks continued to build around the young core of Bertuzzi, Jovanovski, Ohlund, and Naslund. The Western division had a tough road to the postseason and the Canucks finished out of the race for two years. They used their high draft picks and trades to acquire the Sedin twins and nurtured goalie, Dan Cloutier. The 2000-2001 season saw the end of Mark Messier's tenure on the West coast as he moved back to the New York Rangers. But the team continued to show improvement, finishing with 90 points and taking on the Colorado Avalanche in the first round of the playoffs. Even though Colorado swept them in four straight, the series was much closer than the final tally and the Canucks would build on it in the upcoming years. 2000-01 season saw the emergence of Dan Cloutier as the future number one goalie in Vancouver, as he took over from Felix Potvin. The Canucks made marginal improvements in the regular season and lost in a tough matchup to the Detroit Red Wings in the first round of the playoffs. Vancouver was on the verge of realizing one of the most explosive duos in the NHL - Todd Bertuzzi and Markus Naslund. They combined for almost 100 goals and over 200 points. The playoffs would continue to leave a bitter taste in the Canucks' mouth as they were unable to put away the Minnesota Wild, allowing them to come back from a deficit and win in seven games.
Vancouver Canucks Overview:
Arena: General Motors Place
Stanley Cups won: 0