On Oct. 9, 1970, the Vancouver Canucks played their first NHL game at the Pacific Coliseum. It was a loss.
The pre-game ceremony was filled with pomp and ceremony. Premier W.A.C. Bennett was on hand, along with his son and future premier Bill Bennett. NHL President Clarence Campbell was also in attendance. Hockey legend Fred “Cyclone” Taylor dropped the puck for the ceremonial opening faceoff.
The game that followed was less than thrilling.
In his handwritten game notes, longtime Canucks broadcaster Jim Robson described the first home game as a “very dull 3-1 loss to the L.A. Kings.”
Barry Wilkins was the lone goal scorer for the Canucks.
The first game was not a sell-out, according to Robson, due to a problem with ticket distribution. In their second game two days later, the Canucks beat the Toronto Maple Leafs on a Sunday afternoon due to a “blue law” that prohibited pro sports events from taking place on Sunday nights.
The Canucks, along with the Buffalo Sabres, were part of the second wave of NHL expansion. Three years earlier, Vancouver was denied entry in the expansion’s first wave.
According to Robson, Vancouver hockey fans voiced their displeasure by boycotting companies that sponsored Hockey Night in Canada.
“They cut their Esso credit cards in half, and they also stopped drinking Molson beer because Molson own the Montreal Canadiens, and it did have an effect,” Robson said.
“Not too long after the NHL announced the next expansion will include Vancouver.”
Robson notes that much has changed for Canucks fans over the years, including that fans weren’t allowed to drink beer during home games.
“No beer, but there were lots of cigarettes,” he said. “That’s the way things were in 1970.”
While there have some highs since that first game — including three appearances in the Stanley Cup finals — there have been plenty of lows.
Following the St. Louis Blues Stanley Cup championship earlier this year, the Canucks and Sabres are the NHL’s two oldest existing teams without a Stanley Cup.
Forty-nine years later to the day, the Canucks are hoping for better luck when they face off against the L.A. Kings in their October 9 home opener.
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