The cluster of visiting NHL scouts located alongside press box row at Rogers Arena seemed to be more intense than normal during the Canucks-Chicago game last Sunday.
The usual banter and exchange of pleasantries had been replaced by an atmosphere of urgency.
“It was as if they were waiting for the other shoe to drop,” suggested Ernie (Punch) McLean, whose background in hockey warrants taking note.
“They sensed something was in the air. They could feel it and wanted to make sure they were on top of things.”
At a glance, rival scouts in the house included Mike Penny (Toronto), Scott Bradley (Boston), Rich Sutter (Columbus), Cammi Granato (Seattle), Bretton Stamler (Washington), Steve Kariya (New York Islanders) and Craig Bonner (Dallas).
McLean, the celebrated coal-miner-turned-gold-prospector from Estevan, Saskatchewan, owned, managed and coached the New Westminster Bruins for 14 seasons, winning consecutive Memorial Cup championships in 1977 and 1978.
Punch has witnessed the recurring Canucks commotion from his own little space high above ice level going on 50 years. Countless times in the past, he’s been quietly approached by management for counsel.
“If I was asked today,” he says, “I would tell them it has nothing to do with the coaching. The players are so tight they’re more concerned about making a mistake than just going out and playing their game.
“Look at (Elias) Pettersson. He used to have what they now call a ‘nice wrister’ but he’s just slapping the puck and hoping for the best. I used to tell my players to go out and have fun like they did as kids. The Canucks are feeling the pressure, trying to help one another, and their minds aren’t totally in the game. Until that changes, the losing will continue.”
SCENE & HEARD:
Ernie Dougherty celebrated his 97th birthday this past Tuesday and wears the title Mr. Original Canuck proudly.
Born on November 23rd, 1924 at St. Paul’s Hospital, Dougherty is the lone survivor from the original 1945-46 Vancouver Canucks who won the Pacific Coast Hockey League championship. The team was inducted into the BC Sports Hall of Fame in 2012.
In an interview with Vancouver Sun historian John Mackie a couple of years ago, Dougherty reminisced about growing up on Triumph Street a block-and-a-half from the old Forum on the PNE grounds, hawking peanuts at lacrosse games and cleaning the ice surface with a shovel between periods of hockey games.
He began working for White Spot owner Nat Bailey who ran several PNE concession stands. Ernie eventually opened his own Dairy Queen in Burnaby and operated several ice cream booths during PNE Fairs until 2004.
The Canucks Alumni is in the throes of organizing a Mr. Original Canuck visit to the alumni suite for a game at Rogers Arena between now and Christmas.
HERE ‘N THERE:
To add to the list of strange events within the Canadian Football League, Wally Buono came out of retirement earlier this week by accepting the position of “transition” general manager and special consultant with the Edmonton Elks.
In the fallout of the Edmonton club firing CEO Chris Presson, GM Brock Sunderland, and head coach Jaime Elizondo, Buono’s assignment will be to help the Edmonton club find a new GM, ideally before the end of the year.
What would be even stranger is if Buono comes up empty-handed in his search and decides to recommend himself as the best qualified candidate, stepping back into the CFL fray full-time.
An excellent BC Soccer Heritage Newsletter that includes access to classic video profiles of the latest inductees into the Soccer Hall of Fame of BC is worth checking out.
The Class of 2021 includes players: Mike Gilmore, Peter Greco, David Ravenhill and Emily Zurrer; coach Joe Johnson who directed the UBC soccer program; referee John Meachin; pioneer builder Harold Witter; the NIFA Women’s Indigenous Team Canada 2015 and Victoria’s Gorge Soccer Association (Gorge FC).
BC Soccer is the largest provincial sports organization in BC and the third largest soccer-specific provincial sports organization in Canada with more than 15,000 participants.
Greg Douglas ‘Dr. Sport’ contributes to The Orca on a biweekly basis. His five decades of covering sports in British Columbia included 19 years as a weekly columnist with The Vancouver Sun.