When I talk about the Vancouver Canucks and rivalries, different team names will emerge. Younger fans will talk about the Chicago Blackhawks and their recent playoff clashes with the Canucks, while some fans caught up in the exuberance of last year’s Stanley Cup Final and the heated regular season re-match will talk about the Boston Bruins.
Fans with slightly longer memories will point to the Calgary Flames, and for good reason. There is the geographical proximity to consider, but more importantly, the Canucks and Flames have met up in the playoffs a half-dozen times, including three straight seasons in the early 80′s. Their first-round match-ups in 1989, 1994, and 2004 were particularly important, as the winner in those 7-game series went on to the Stanley Cup Final each time.
But here’s a name that you might not have considered: the Seattle Totems. One of the Canucks earliest rivals may be on their way to being revived in the Emerald City.
Thursday afternoon, Seattle mayor Mike McGinn held a press conference announcing the details of a proposal to build a brand new, state-of-the-art sport arena in the SoDo area of Seattle. The arena is being largely funded by private investor Christopher Hansen, a San Francisco hedge fund manager who grew up as a massive SuperSonics fan in Seattle.
Hansen appears to be passionate about bringing the NBA back to Seattle and is pledging $290 million towards the building of the arena on land that he already owns. The deal is particularly sweet for the city as it involves no new taxes, will be entirely self-funded through revenue created by the arena itself, and has a series of conditions that need to be met in order for any public money to be used.
This is where hockey fans can get excited: one of those requirements is that both an NBA and an NHL franchise need to be brought into Seattle to play in the arena for public funds to be committed to the project.
While Hansen won’t be buying an NHL franchise, other groups have been identified that want to bring the NHL to Seattle and Hansen will now be motivated to work with these groups to make this happen. The biggest obstacle in the way of the NHL coming to Seattle has been the lack of a suitable arena, as KeyArena has only 10-12,000 unobstructed seats for hockey. With this new arena deal coming together, Seattle has to be considered a frontrunner for NHL relocation.
Seattle has tried to get an NHL franchise twice previously, as outlined in my post yesterday at Backhand Shelf, but this may be their best chance to actually succeed. There are still a lot of hurdles to overcome, but one of the biggest has been removed. This is great news for the Vancouver Canucks.
Like many teams in the Western Conference, the Canucks don’t have any other NHL teams in close proximity. The closest is Calgary, but it’s not exactly a short drive. A team in Seattle, however, would just be a few hours away, close enough to leave work early, drive down, enjoy a game, and drive back up late at night. Tickets in Seattle would potentially (aka. almost certainly) be cheaper than at Rogers Arena as well. Once NHL realignment rolls around, Seattle and Vancouver would undoubtedly be in the same division, resulting in even more games between the two franchises.
Seattle and Vancouver have a long hockey history together, dating back to the days of the Vancouver Millionaires and Seattle Metropolitans, Stanley Cup Winners in 1915 and 1917, respectively. They were two of only four teams in the Pacific Coast Hockey Association and battled for the PCHA championship six times.
But the Vancouver Canucks had a Seattle rival themselves, during their pre-NHL years in the Pacific Coast Hockey League and Western Hockey League. The Seattle teams went through a series of owners and name changes before settling on the Seattle Totems.
The Totems and Canucks were the two longest lasting teams in the WHL and were, at times, the two best teams in the league, as the Totems won 3 championships and the Canucks won 4. They met up 4 times in the WHL playoffs, including once in the finals. By the time the Canucks joined the NHL in 1970, however, the Totems were on a decline. But the Canucks’ association with the Totems didn’t end there.
When the Totems began experiencing financial troubles, the ownership of the Canucks saved them from bankruptcy by purchasing a majority share in the team, with the understanding that the original owners could buy back that share if and when the Totems were able to join the NHL. The Totems became the Canucks’ farm team and were awarded an expansion NHL franchise in 1974.
Unfortunately, the Totems’ ownership were unable to procure the necessary funds to pay the NHL’s expansion fees and buy back the team from the Canucks and the team collapsed.
Professional hockey left Seattle in 1975, but it might be on its way back. If so, it might be the chance for the Canucks to renew a 60-year-old rivalry.
The bulk of my information came from the superb website, seattlehockey.net, a great resource for the history of hockey in Seattle.Tags: Canucks, Hockey History, NHL, Seattle, Seattle Totems