Tuesday, December 27, 2016

Unidentified Hockey Photo: Gretzky vs Canucks

Here's a colourful photo from my pal at Vintage Sports Images in North Vancouver. The info that came with it was simply that it was Gretzky and Kevin McCarthy. McCarthy was Captain of the Canucks from 1979/80 through 1981/82. This photo has to be from 81/82 because the Oilers switched to white letters on their nameplate after having orange letters until 1980/81.

This being 1981/82 gives two possibilities as to who Vancouver #17 in the foreground is. Jerry Butler wore the number for 25 games this year as he split time between Vancouver and Dallas of the CHL. On March 9, 1982 the Canucks acquired Tony Currie along with Rick Heinz and Jim Nill from St. Louis for a 4th round pick. Both Butler and Currie are right shooters like the guy in this pic, but Edmonton had already visited Vancouver for the last time of the season six weeks prior to Currie being traded for. This means the #17 shown here can only be Jerry Butler.

Butler was obtained two years before along with Tiger Williams from Toronto for Rick Vaive and Bill Derlago and he would sign with Winnipeg to begin the 82/83 campaign. McCarthy would be usurped as captain of the Canucks the following season by Stan Smyl and was traded to Pittsburgh in 1984.

If The Great One appears a bit flustered in this photo, it is fully understandable. His performance in this match was below his usual standards, especially for the 81/82 season. Although unable to determine which exactly of the four games in Vancouver this pic is from, it's certain he wasn't his usual point producing self. In the first visit to the Pacific Coliseum that year on October 9, Gretzky was shutout in a 6-2 Canuck win. Next visit on December 5, the squads tied 3-3 with Wayner again not scoring a goal but picking up two helpers. On New Years Eve, the Canucks shut down a rampaging Gretzky who had the night before scored his 50th goal in his 39th game. After recording 15 goals and 25 points the previous 5 games, Gretzky produced nothing in a 3-1 loss.

The final time in Vancouver on January 22, the Oilers finally pulled out a 4-3 win with a goal and assist for Gretzky. Over the four games in Vancouver in 81/82, Edmonton went 1-2-1 and Gretzky had a pedestrian one goal and three assists. He produced points a rate of one per game, while in his other 76 games that season he average 2.74 points per game.

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