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When the 1982 Vancouver Canucks made it to the Stanley Cup

The fans figured their beloved Vancouver Canucks deserved it.

The team had battled through three playoff series for a spot in the Stanley Cup final for the first time in franchise history. But they had already lost two games to the New York Islanders.

But as the CBC’s Tom Alderman learned, they weren’t losing faith when the series came to the B.C. city.

“[They’re] big winners with their sometimes fickle fans,” said The Journal‘s Barbara Frum in her introduction to the story.

‘The usual braggadocio’

“I’m a Canucks fan,” said a man who was explaining why he had camped out to buy tickets. “A reborn Canucks fan, but I’m a Canucks fan.” (The Journal/CBC Archives)

“They got no business being up there,” said Alderman, standing between two fans who were trying to watch the game on TV in a bar. “But somehow the Vancouver Canucks are in the Stanley Cup finals.” 

The team had beat the Calgary Flames in the first round, the L.A. Kings in the second and the Chicago Blackhawks during the third.

During Game 2 in the series against the Blackhawks, coach Roger Neilson had placed a white towel on a hockey stick and waved it a referee in apparent protest over a set of calls against the Canucks.

The towel “became the rallying action that propelled the underdog team into [the] 1982 Stanley Cup final,” recalled the Vancouver Sun in 2015.

The final series might not be easy, but Vancouver fans were thrilled just to see their team in the final.

“We got the better climate, we got the better teams. We should deserve it,” said a man indulging in what Alderman called “the usual braggadocio.”

‘Vancouver is there’

“This just doesn’t happen very often, the Canucks making it to a final,” said a fan who was waiting to buy hockey tickets. “They’ve worked hard, so I’m going to come down and cheer for them.” (The Journal/CBC Archives)

Alderman gave viewers a glimpse of some the 1,000 people who had lined up a dingy hallway for tickets to the next two games. Some of them had been there for up to two days and brought lawn chairs.

“They want to be in on history, B.C. style,” said the reporter.

The raucous fans, some of whom had empty pizza boxes nearby or were playing games to pass the time, cheered for the camera. 

“They’re watching this game all over the world,” said a bearded man. “And Vancouver is there.”

‘Big escape’

Prof. Robin Martin, an “expert on the Vancouver psyche,” shared his perspective on the fans’ embrace of their team. (The Journal/CBC Archives)

“The body is ailing in Vancouver,” said college professor Martin Robin, trying to pinpoint the city’s embrace of its hockey team. “People are looking for some kind of big escape, and they’re finding it in their hockey team.”

Members of the team got a “hero’s welcome” at the airport upon their return from New York.

It didn’t look good for them going into Game 3, but Alderman said that ultimately didn’t matter.

“Vancouver fans don’t insist that its heroes be regular winners,” he summed up. “Just that they give them a taste of impossible dreams.”

The Canucks lost the Stanley Cup final that year to the New York Islanders in a four-game sweep.

They have since made it to the Stanley Cup final twice, in 1994 and 2011, but have never won.

The Vancouver Canucks’ Harold Snepsts, left, and Stan Smyl hold the Clarence S. Campbell Bowl after winning Campbell Conference in NHL playoff action against Chicago on May 6, 1982. (Fred Jewell/Associated Press)

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