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There is no word of celebration in either of the city’s major papers as, after years of waiting, the Vancouver Canucks officially join the NHL.
“Having been skivvied to the tune of $6 million for an NHL franchise that was considered grossly over-priced at $2 million just two years ago, the owners are now being dunned for a $1.2 million payment by the Western Hockey League,” complains The Province’s Eric Whitehead. “The Canucks are countering with an offer of $500,000 plus placement of their current WHL franchise elsewhere – Calgary preferred – and a continuation of regular payments from this franchise to the WHL office.”
The Canucks’ eminent departure from the WHL has caused all manner of legal woes, with the league demanding $1.2 million in compensation for the team’s departure (ordinarily they collect 5% of a team’s annual gross).
“Vancouver has now been awarded a final franchise, not conditional on anything,” General Manager Bud Poile tells reporters, defiantly. “We had to guarantee to indemnify the NHL against any damages arising from our leaving the WHL and to convince them we’ve made a legitimate effort to settle our differences.”
Vancouver’s fight for an NHL franchise has been a lengthy one, having already been passed over in 1966, in favour of six American cities. However, following the efforts of a number of locals – among them Nat Bailey and former Mayor Fred Hume - and the payment of the aforementioned $6 million, the Canucks were granted the 14th NHL franchise in 1969. Their final WHL season was a triumphant one, going 8-0-3 in the playoffs, and winning the coveted Lester Patrick Cup.
The fledgling team’s first NHL game will be played October 9, bringing dignitaries from around the province, including Premier W.A.C. Bennett, Mayor Tom Campbell, and Chief Dan George.
It will be a 3-1 loss against the L.A. Kings.
IMAGE: A WHL Canucks game against Seattle, circa 1960s. Image courtesy of the Vancouver Public Library.