Thursday, December 3, 2015

The First Vancouver Canucks Team, 1945/46

Above is a great photo from the Vancouver Archives of the Pacific Coast Hockey League, Vancouver Canucks. The photo is at he Vancouver Forum during the first ever season with the Canucks  name used in Vancouver during the 1945/46 season. Pictured left to right are Chuck Millman, Doug Norris and coach Paul Thompson.

It is fairly common knowledge that the name Canuck was an ode to a popular comic book character of the time. According to Jason Beck, Curator of the BC Sports Hall of Fame; "
Owner Coley Hall won the franchise rights in a poker game. Out for a mid-summer stroll, Hall’s bookie Arthur Rennison suggested the ‘Canuck’ moniker as a nod to wartime comic book character Johnny Canuck."

Chuck Millman was a six-foot tall defenceman from Hamilton, Ontario who scored 32 points in 55 games for the Canucks that season. He would play four seasons in Vancouver before retiring in 1950. Doug Norris was not an actual member of the Canucks in 45/46. He had played with the Vancouver RCAF Seahawks the previous three years and appears to have spent most of 1945/46 overseas even representing the RCAF All-Stars in Wembley England. Norris had also been a member of the World Champion Trail Smoke Eaters in 1939.

The coach, Paul Thompson was a retired veteran of 13 NHL seasons. He won the Stanley Cup in 1928 with the Rangers and in 1934 and 1938 with Chicago. In 1936, Thompson finished second in NHL scoring and was named Second Team All-Star. He had been head coach of Chicago since his retirement in 1939 before becoming the inaugural coach of the Canucks.

His squad finished atop the PCHL in 45/46 with a record of 37-21-0. They beat Portland Eagles 3 games to 2 and Hollywood Wolves 4 to 1 in the final. A member of those Wolves was 18-year old defenceman Bill Barilko. The youngster would collect 103 PIMs in 38 games that season before playing 18 games with the Maple Leafs the following year.

After being crowned PCHL champions, the Canucks advanced to play the Boston Olympics in the United States Amateur Championships. The seven game series would take place entirely at the Canucks home, the Vancouver Forum. Even still, the Canucks went down 3 games to 1 before roaring back to win the last three games and the Walter A. Brown Cup. The 1945/46 Vancouver Canucks were inducted into the BC Sports Hall of Fame in 2012.

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