Dreaming of a Canucks Winter Classic

On December 20th, 2010, the Vancouver Province posted an article that caused a good deal of buzz across Vancouver. The article stated that the Canucks hoped to host a Heritage Classic in their own backyard, at BC Place home of the Canadian Football League’s BC Lions.

Since then much has changed. While the first heritage classic was hosted in Edmonton and featured two Canadian NHL clubs, the event has since morphed into an annual parade of big East Coast clubs (the Penguins again!?). Finally this season, the Toronto Maple Leafs were to be featured, alongside a Western Conference team (for the first time since 2009) in the Detroit Red Wings. At this juncture, however, it doesn’t even look like the game will be played…

There’s lots of lockout talk these days, and I figure we could all use a harmless distraction. So how about we take a glance into the patented Canucks Army crystal ball, and dream about the Canucks being featured in an outdoor match-up in the near future.

Let’s start off with the potential opponent.

The Vancouver Canucks versus the Chicago Blackhawks

This is the game that most of the Vancouver hockey market wants to see. Chicago hosted the 2009 Winter Classic against the rival Detroit Red Wings at historic Wrigley Field, but there are other venues that could make some sense (Soldiers Field, for example).

Either way, a game against the Blackhawks would probably mean that the NHL goes back to Chicago… Or they could try to play a game in BC Place, but many argue the dome isn’ wellt suited for the Classic since it lacks the open air-feel that many have become accustomed to.

In terms of the 24/7 though, Canucks v. Blackhawks would make for unmatched drama.

The Vancouver Canucks versus the Colorado Avalanche

Maybe the Canucks would play the first outdoor game in the franchises history in the thin air of the Mile High state. On its face, it doesn’t sound that farfetched. With Colorado being one of the NHL’s bigger TV markets, and the Avalanche struggling to draw crowds since the team began to re-tool after Joe Sakic’s retirement, a Winter Classic in Denver could make sense.

Sports Authority Field, home of the Denver Broncos, is one of two possible destinations in Denver, but Coors Field wouldn’t be a bad idea either (ever seen a homerun in a hockey game?). Unfortunately for Vancouver, if Denver was ever to host an outdoor spectacular, the Detroit Red Wings would (and should) be the opponent. Imagine that alumni game, I bet it would feature some brutal cheap shots!

With the 2013 Winter Classic (if it happens) taking place in Michigan Stadium between the afore mentioned Red Wings and the storied Toronto Maple Leafs, maybe a Vancouver-Colorado pairing could be intriguing for the NHL.

The Vancouver Canucks versus the Ottawa Senators

This might make some fans raise their eyebrows, but the way I see it: this one is probably the most likely of the three match-ups for an outdoor game featuring the Canucks.

In two years, we’ll mark the centennial anniversary of the city of Vancouver’s only Stanley Cup victory. In 1915 the Vancouver Millionaires – led by Cyclone Taylor, and James Norris – beat, you guessed it, the Ottawa Senators.

Forget the "Winter Classic" for this game (no American clubs mean there’s no way NBC would be interested). But maybe it could still happen. The heritage classic has taken a couple years off, and frankly it would be pretty awesome if the Canucks and Sens were to meet up at Frank Clair Stadium in Ottawa.

With new renovations pending and a CFL team returning to Ottawa, you know that the city would push for a signature event like an outdoor game… Also the Flames, Oilers and Habs have all been featured in an outdoor game, and Toronto is likely to be featured in 2013 (pending the outcome of CBA negotiations). That leaves only Ottawa, Vancouver and Winnipeg as Canadian clubs who’ve yet to participate.

Winnipeg will get their shot in the future, but it seems like a no-brainer to celebrate the 100th anniversary of Vancouver’s only Stanley Cup win, and to do so in the Ottawa climate..

The Vancouver Canucks versus the San Jose Sharks

This is definitely the most unorthodox of the four options. With Vancouver and San Jose taking part in some memorable games in the recent past, a match-up between the two could bring exciting results – especially if they add some extra stanchions.

Now you may be thinking, how could this happen? With uncertainty surrounding BC Place’s suitability as an outdoor venue, and no other logical place in Vancouver to host a game, it isn’t likely to happen here any time soon. San Jose, meanwhile isn’t going to host an outdoor game, because the climate is pretty clearly too warm…

So how about a neutral site? The City of Seattle is trying to sell their market to the NHL, and what would create more local buzz surrounding pro-hockey in Seattle than an outdoor game, on the field of beautiful Safeco Field?

Vancouver would definitely be the home team, being mere hours away from the ballpark, but Sharks fans wouldn’t be faced with much travel. Hell, it could be exciting to hold a Winter Classic in a neutral site…

Now that we have gone through the potential match-ups, let’s dive into the giant closet of hockey attire…

 

The Uniforms

 

With the team’s original stick-in-the-rink logo having been recently revived, and generously used across the Canucks wardrobe for a half decade, three options are pushed to the forefront:

A) The “Flying-V” was infamously worn by the Canucks in the 80’s, and it has been a conversation starter across the hockey world ever since. Most of those conversation go something like this, "what’s the ugliest jersey you’ve ever seen," "probably the Flying-V jersey the Canucks wore in the early 80’s," "agreed."

B) The “Plate of Spaghetti” logo worn on the Canucks until the Brian Burke era, and it’s still very popular amongst collectors and fans alike. It’s not all that old though, so would it fit in with the mystique and the branding of the "Heritage/Winter Classic"? I don’t think so…

On October 1st, 2010 the Vancouver Canucks announced that they had acquired the rights to the Vancouver Millionaires logos, jerseys and trademarks. If Ottawa was to play Vancouver in 2014-2015 (like we previously discussed), I see this as the only option for the game.

Lastly, one of my favourite things about the outdoor classics, is the Alumni Game played prior to the big showcase. Many icons have taken part in these games: Wayne Gretzky, Mark Messier and Gordie Howe, for example. Obviously, Vancouver doesn’t have the legends, but they do have some names that have become icons to hockey fans in Vancouver.

While we’re dreaming of the Canucks in a Winter or Heritage classic, we might as well dream about putting together some alumni team rosters while we’re at it, right?

Here’s the rosters I have created, assuming that all players would agree and are capable to take place in the game:

  • Top Line: Markus Naslund/Trevor Linden/Stan Smyl
  • Second Line: Tony Tanti/Thomas Gradin/Pavel Bure
  • Third Line: Greg Adams/Cliff Ronning/Dennis Ververgaert
  • Fourth Line: Gino Odjick/Andre Boudrais/Petri Skriko
  • Orland Kurtenbach (Extra)

Defence:

  • Mattias Ohlund/Harold Snepsts
  • Dennis Kearns/Jyrki Lumme
  • Doug Lidster/Dave Babych
  • Dale Tallon

Goaltenders:

  • Kirk McLean
  • Richard Brodeur

Coaching Staff: Pat Quinn (Coach) Marc Crawford/Harry Neale (Assistants)

Realistically, the Canucks are nowhere near the front of the line to be involved in an outdoor game in the near future. Their best best is probably a one off Heritage Classic game against the Senators in a couple of season. But with the NHL lockout looming (and CBA negotiations boring hockey fans across the continent) we might as well distract ourselves and dream!