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THE TOP 18 NHL PRESEASON GAMES ON VANCOUVER ISLAND - PART 2 (10-18)

In Part One, we reviewed preseason games from 1959 to 2019. The countdown included Wayne Gretzky’s debut with Los Angeles, Dale Hawerchuk’s first NHL goal and two victories by the Montreal Canadiens.


In Part Two, we conclude with nine games featuring

  • Hall of Famers such as Gordie Howe, Cam Neely and Luc Robitaille.

  • Defending 1964 Stanley Cup champion Toronto Maple Leafs.

  • The only World Hockey Association game.

  • Victoria Cougars taking on the St. Louis Blues in 1984.



10. September 29, 1973: LOS ANGELES KINGS 2 - MINNESOTA NORTH STARS 1 (Victoria)


All the focus was on Minnesota goaltender Gump Worsley because of his mask and temper. This preseason marked the first time in his 22 year career that Worsely wore a facemask. His first game with face protection took place four days prior against the Toronto Maple Leafs.


The Kings built a 2-0 lead in the second period with goals from Bob Berry and Gilles Marotte. Immediately following the second goal, Worsley became extremely upset with the referee because of Minnesota’s over-lapping penalties. He “directed choice remarks at (referee David) Shewchuk which produced a misconduct penalty. He drew a game misconduct when he continued his verbal attack and had to be restrained by teammates in efforts to get at the official”


Fern Rivard replaced Worsely and blanked LA for the rest of the game. Gary Edwards (12 saves) and Rogie Vachon (16 saves) backstopped the Kings to victory.


This would be Worsley’s final year in the NHL. He would only wear a mask this preseason and for six games in 1973/74. Worsley was one of the last NHL goaltenders to play without a protective mask.


11. September 30, 1963: DETROIT RED WINGS 2 - VICTORIA COUGARS 1 - MEMORIAL ARENA – 5,448


The Detroit Red Wings had all they could handle as they squeaked by the Victoria Cougars of the Western Hockey League 2-1. Alex Delvecchio and Val Fonteyne scored for Detroit to give them a 2-0 lead before Victoria’s Arlo Goodwin “brought the house down” with a goal in the third period. Terry Sawchuk was outstanding in net for Detroit, but the star of the game was Cougar’s goaltender, Reno Zanier. (father of Mike Zanier) He came up with many spectacular saves as he stopped 32 of 34 shots. After the game, Detroit General Manager Jack Adams said, “That Zanier played a terrific game for the Cougars and stopped Gordie Howe, our big man cold. Gordie’s the best player in the NHL and he isn’t stopped like that too often.”


12. October 2, 1984: St Louis Blues 10 – Victoria Cougars 3


One of the strangest exhibitions at Memorial Arena featured the junior Victoria Cougars taking on the St. Louis Blues. Both squads exchanged players before the game, and Blues goaltender Mike Liut played for each team. The game originated because Cougars GM/Coach Les Calder was a former St. Louis scout. He arranged with his former boss, Blues GM Ron Carron, to have the two teams meet in an exhibition game. A couple of days later, St. Louis faced the Winnipeg Jets in Nanaimo. In previous years, the Cougars played preseason contests against farm teams of Los Angeles and Vancouver. But for this matchup, the Blues dressed their full regular season lineup that included three future Hall of Famers. (Bernie Federko, Doug Gilmour and Joe Mullen). In an attempt to make the game competitive, the teams exchanged defensemen before the opening faceoff. Six Blues defenseman played for the Cougars, while six Cougars wound up on the St Louis blueline.


The small crowd of 742 witnessed a lopsided game from the start. St. Louis jumped out to a commanding 6-1 lead after one period and 9-2 after the second. Midway through the second period, Blues goaltender Mike Liut and Randy Hansch of Victoria switched teams. Liut was outstanding for the Cougars as he kept the game competitive in the third period. The final shots were 44-24 St Louis. Mullen and Perry Anderson scored twice, while Gilmour, Federko, Kevin Lavallee, Perry Ganchar, Matt Hervey (Cougars D-Man) and Alain Lemieux had the other St. Louis markers. Simon Wheeldon factored in all three Cougars’ goals with one goal and two assists. Because of the easy victory, St. Louis coach Jacques Demers put his team through a post-game skate and workout. The Blues would go on that year to finish first in the Norris Division.


13. September 23, 1986: VANCOUVER CANUCKS 6 - LOS ANGELES KINGS 5 (Nanaimo)


Rich Sutter makes a big impression on his new team with a hat trick as the Canucks beat the Kings 6-5. Patrick Sundstrom (2 goals - 1 assist) and Tony Tanti (1 goal - 2 assists) were also prominent for the Canucks. Former Victoria Cougars captain Barry Pederson had one assist. Pederson was acquired from Boston in the offseason in exchange for Cam Neely.


Linemates Luc Robitaille and Sean McKenna each picked up two goals and two assists for Los Angeles. In 1986, the Kings and Canucks would play exhibition games in Victoria and Duncan. Luc Robitaille would score in all three Vancouver Island games. He would go on that season to win the 1986/87 Calder Trophy as the top NHL rookie and entered the Hockey Hall of Fame in 2009.


Another former Victoria Cougar, Stu Kulak, was making a comeback with the Canucks in 1986. He did not play for a year and a half due to an abdominal injury. When Vancouver faced LA in Victoria, Kulak scored once and had two fights with Mark Hardy of the Kings.



14. September 24, 1979: VANCOUVER CANUCKS 6 - LOS ANGELES KINGS 6


A crowd of 5,217 watched former Victoria Cougar Gary Lupul in his NHL debut with the Vancouver Canucks. Lupul was the first star with two goals as the Canucks and Kings skated to a 6-6 tie. Another Cougar alumnus, Curt Fraser, opened the scoring for Vancouver on the power play in the first period. Other Vancouver goals came from Brad Smith, Kevin McCarthy and Ron Sedlbauer, who tied the game with 5:05 remaining. Steve Jensen, Marcel Dionne, Dean Hopkins, Randy Manery, Mike Marson, and Charlie Simmer countered for Los Angeles. Lorne Mollekan and Ron Grahame, former BCJHL Victoria Cougar, shared the net-minding duties for Los Angeles.


The previous season, Lupul led the Victoria Cougars in points and represented Canada at the World Juniors. He went undrafted and signed a free-agent contract with the Canucks one day before the opening of training camp.


After the game, Canucks GM Jake Milford said, “Its nice when your hometown favorites show you the kind of talent that exists in major junior hockey. That should sell a few tickets for the Cougars.” (1)


15. September 28, 1964: Toronto Maple Leafs 8 – Victoria Maple Leafs 1 (Victoria)


The defending Stanley Cup champion Toronto Maple Leafs cruised to an 8-1 thrashing of the Victoria Maple Leafs. Toronto peppered 60 shots on Victoria goaltender Al Millar. Frank Mahovlich set the pace with four goals and one assist. Bob Pulford, Gerry Ehman, Dave Keon and Jim Pappin also scored. Johnny Bower started in net for Toronto and gave way to Terry Sawchuk in the second period. The Victoria Times said, “Toronto’s performance was probably the most impressive of any exhibition game at Memorial Arena involving an NHL team” (3)


1964 was Victoria's first year in the Western Hockey League. They served as a farm team for the Toronto Maple Leafs for three seasons.




16. September 22, 1984: VANCOUVER CANUCKS 5 – LOS ANGELES KINGS 3. (Victoria)


Bill LaForge wins his debut as Vancouver Canucks coach. Garth Butcher scored the winning goal with a sharp wrist shot to break a 3-3 tie as the Canucks went on to a 5-3 win over Los Angeles. Cam Neely was an offensive powerhouse with two goals, with Dave Simpson and Moe Lemay also tallying for Vancouver. The Kings replied with markers from Dave Wilks, Steve Seguin and Dave Taylor. Wilks sniped four goals against the Canucks when the two teams met the next night in Duncan. In the rookie game played earlier that day at Memorial Arena, Craig Coxe turned heads with a huge fight against LA’s Bruce Shoebottom.


Laforge did not last long as the Canucks head coach. He was fired after starting the regular season with only four wins in twenty games.


17. September 21, 1982: CHICAGO BLACK HAWKS 4 – LOS ANGELES KINGS 3 (Victoria)


Tim Higgins scored his second of the game with less than three minutes remaining to lead the Blackhawks to a 4-3 victory over Los Angeles. Chicago jumped out to a 3-0 lead, but the Kings clawed their way back to tie the game in the third period with goals from Mike Murphy, Marcel Dionne, and Bernie Nicholls. The Blackhawks lineup also featured Hall of Fame forward Denis Savard.


Rookies Mike Blake and Gary Laskoski each played half the game in net for Los Angeles. Former Victoria Cougar Murray Bannerman started in goal for Chicago and gave way to Warren Skordenski in the second period. Another Cougar alumni, Len Dawes (Chicago’s 1981 second-round draft pick), played a prominent role on the Blackhawks blue line. The Times-Colonist wrote:

Victoria Grad Len Dawes, bidding for a berth with the Hawks, was given plenty of ice by new Chicago coach Orv Tessier. He worked power plays as well as penalty-killing situations and turned in a strong game. (2)

18. October 5, 1973: EDMONTON OILERS 5 - VANCOUVER BLAZERS 3 (Victoria)


Although not an NHL game, the only World Hockey Association game played in Victoria deserves recognition. This was the first season for the Vancouver Blazers, who relocated from Philadelphia. A sparse crowd of 505 people watched the Oilers defeat the Blazers 5-3. In contrast, 5,191 watched the Canadiens and LA Kings at Memorial Arena ten days prior.


The Oilers built a 4-1 lead, but Vancouver’s Claude St. Saviour scored his second of the game to make it 4-3 with less than five minutes remaining. The comeback fell short when Edmonton’s Ed Joyal's score sealed the victory with an empty-net goal in the dying seconds.


Former Boston Bruins forward Johnny McKenzie had the dual role as the Blazers playing coach. He relinquished his coaching duties just a few games into the season. McKenzie said, “I couldn’t coach and play at the same time and I would like to specifically concentrate on playing”


The Jim Pattison owned Blazers only lasted two years in Vancouver before the team moved to Calgary.



Craig Richardson - CougarsHockeyProject@protonmail.com

Follow us on Twitter - @VictoriaCougars


Notes:

(1) “A selling job from Canucks Corners” Ernie Fedoruk, September 25, 1979 (Page 10 of 36). Victoria Times (1971-1980)

(2) “Champs Came to Plan - And That They Did!” Doug Peden. September 29, 1964 (Page 10 of 28). The Victoria Daily Times (1884-1971)

(3) “Chicago’s Higgins spoils strong goaltending effort” September 22, 1982 (Page 12 of 53). Times Colonist (1980-2010)

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