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The Dismantling Of The 1982 Canucks Cinderella Team


So now that you know where the 1982 squad came from, I will now do my best to inform you of where they ended up. Not all endings are happy, I must forewarn you.

-GM Jake Millford. After putting together the vast majority of that Canucks' 1982 squad as a GM, Millford was promoted to Senior Vice President of the club. He was inducted into the Hall Of Fame in 1984 but died on Christmas Eve a month later. He was 70 years old. Canucks GM's after Millford: Harry Neale (1982-85), Jack Gordon (1985-87) and Pat Quinn (1987-1998).

-Coach Roger Neilson. What can be said about Neilson? Well, a lot actually. He will always be remembered as a guy that was loved by many players, co-workers, a pioneer of the game, a rebel, a successful motivator... His Wiki page has some great stories about him. When Harold Ballard fired him as coach of the Leafs back in the late 70's he showed up the next day to perform his duties like nothing had happened. He started Towel Power in hockey, so when you see any fanbase waving those things, remember where it came from. Captain Video. He would study game tapes till wee hours of the morning to scout other teams, and his own to find areas of weakness and strengths. He was the first guy in the NHL to wear a headset to communicate with his assistant coaches.

Neilson was relieved of his coaching duties with the Canucks in January 1984. He went on to coach the Kings, Rangers, Panthers, Flyers and Senators. During his tenure with the Flyers he was diagnosed with cancer.

There was some controversy in Philly between himself and Flyers GM Bobby Clarke over his ability to coach the team due to his "fragile" state. Yet Neilson remained classy and strong throughout the whole scenario. On a more positive note, according to Neilson's Wiki page, while he was assistant coach of the Senators, Jacques Martin stepped down as head coach for the last 2 games of the 2001-02 regular season to allow Neilson to become head coach and become the 9th head coach in NHL history to coach 1000 games. Sadly, Neilson's cancer spread and at the ripe age of 69 he succumbed to his disease in June of 2003. He was inducted into the Hockey Hall Of Fame as a builder in November of 2002. He was appointed as a member of the Order Of Canada in 2002. So much more on Neilson can be found at his Wiki page. Check it out. You won't regret it.



-Stan Smyl. Much to the chagrin of Kevin McCarthy, Smyl remained Canucks' captain after the 1982 run, and he remained captain until the end of the 1989-90 season, when the captaincy was eventually handed over to Trevor Linden. The Canucks only made the playoffs 3 times in 8 years following the 1982 run, yet Smyl remained that never-say-die player that permanently endeared him in the hearts of Canucks fans. Smyl was only about 32 years old when he retired in 1991, but his body had taken a massive toll over a 13 year NHL career.

From 1991-99, Smyl was an assistant coach for the Canucks, in the process coaching the team that went to the 1994 Finals. Smyl never would be head coach of the Canucks. From 1999-2004 Smyl was head coach of the Canucks' affiliate teams Syracuse, Kansas City and Manitoba. In 2004 he became Director of Player Development for the Canucks.. When Mike Gillis took over GM duties in 2008, Smyl was reassigned as Director of Collegiate Scouting and then promoted again as Senior Advisor to Gillis, a job he still holds I believe. In 1991, Smyl's #12 was the first Canucks jersey that was retired to the rafters. Well (and most) deserved I'd say.

-Thomas Gradin. Gradin ended up playing 8 seasons for the Canucks. He matched his 1981-82 regular season point total (86) in 1982-83. As time went on he fell down the Canucks' depth chart and was signed as a free agent by the Boston Bruins in 1986. After recording 43 points in 67 games (plus 4 assists in 4 playoff games) in 1986-87 with Boston, Gradin retired from the NHL at only 31 years of age. He played a few seasons in Sweden but settled for various lead scouting positions with the Canucks. Gradin had a big role in the scouting of the Sedins and Alexander Edler.

-Ivan Boldirev. Boldirev's production dropped in the 1982-83 season and was dealt to the Red Wings for center Mark Kirton. In Detroit, Ivan found his scoring touch back, recording his best season statistically in '83-84 in a 1-2 center tandem with kid Steve Yzerman, scoring 35 goals and 83 points in 75 games. He retired after the following season at the age of 34. Apparently he now works part time for the Blackhawks' alumni association, a team he spent 5 years playing for in the mid 70's.

-Curt Fraser. About 6 months after the Canucks went to the 1982 Cup Finals, Fraser was traded to the Blackhawks in exchange for Tony Tanti. Fraser would play about 5 seasons with Chicago, including having a career year with them in '85-86, scoring 29 goals and 68 points in 61 games. In January 1988 he was traded to the North Stars for soon-to-be Chicago captain Dirk Graham. He was in and out of the North Stars line up due to mostly a back injury and retired in 1990. In Tanti, the Canucks gained a feisty winger who would score more than 40 goals in 3 of his about 7 years with Vancouver (plus two-39 goal campaigns.)

Fraser pursued coaching after his retirement and coached NHL affiliates Milwaukee, Syracuse and Orlando before finally attaining an NHL head coaching job with the Atlanta Thrashers in 1999. That was a miserable fail until he was fired in 2003. After that he was assistant coach for the Islanders and Blues. He then coached the Belarus men's team in 2007 and 2008 and is currently the head coach of the Grand Rapids Griffins.

-Ivan Hlinka. Hlinka only played 2 seasons with the Canucks, and the NHL for that matter. He retired from the NHL in 1983 after recording 63 points in 65 games as a 33 year-old. Back problems encouraged his decision to quit playing and pursue coaching in Europe immediately afterward. Hlinka coached the Czech Republic national team, including the squad that beat Canada in Nagano in 1998. He then coached the NHL Penguins to an Eastern Conference Finals appearance and was dismissed early the following season, after Jagr was traded to Washington and amidst reports of a not-so comfy relationship with Mario Lemieux. Hlinka then became GM of the Czech national team. In August 2004 Hlinka died in a car crash in the Czech Republic. He was 54 years old.

Hlinka is tied with Pavel Bure for most points by a Canucks rookie (60). He was inducted into the IIHF Hall Of Fame in 2002. Hlinka was a major performer (one of the best ever)  and an icon in Czech Republic hockey.

-"Tiger" Dave Williams. Williams would play 2 more seasons before leaving for Detroit, being traded to the Kings and then plucked off waivers by the Whalers in 1988. He retired that year at the age of 34 years old. As far as I know, Williams still participates in games with the Canucks alumni.

-Darcy Rota. Rota followed the 1981-82 season with a career year playing with Smyl and Gradin, breaking Canucks records for a left winger with 41 goals and 81 points until some guy named Naslund came along. Late in the '83-84 season (in which he played in the All-Star Game) he suffered a neck injury at the hands of then-King Jay Wells. That was curtains for Rota. He wanted to make a comeback but was urged to retire. Immediately following his playing career he was hired as a PR guy for the Canucks, then worked in scouting, then became assistant to NHL Prez John Ziegler, then returned to Vancouver to be play-by-play with Jim Robson on Canucks TV, followed by becoming part-owner-GM-President of the Coquitlam Express of the BCHL. He has since given up those jobs. What does he do now? I'm not sure. Help me out.

-Jim Nill. On February 3, 1984, Nill was traded to the Boston Bruins for Peter McNab. He played 1 and a half seasons for the Bruins and was then traded to the Winnipeg Jets for Morris Lukowich. He played his final 3 years in the NHL with the Detroit Red Wings, after being acquired by them in 1988. He turned his focus to scouting for the Ottawa Senators for 3 years before finding a permanent home as an amateur scout for the Red Wings, a job he still possesses, and under his tenure the Wings have won 4 Stanley Cups. Damn you Jim Nill! Damn you! (I kid).

-Lars Molin. Another one of the Europeans that played a few years for the Canucks and then left for home. Molin retired from the NHL at age 28 and returned to Sweden to play one (impressive) year with Modo and with the Swedish National team, winning a gold medal in the 1987 world championships. He also coached a couple of Swedish clubs after his active playing career was over.

Lupul_medium -Gary Lupul. After the 1982 Finals Lupul played parts of 4 more seasons with Vancouver and then 1 season in Berlin. The Canucks hired him as a junior and collegiate scout after his playing days were over. Beyond problems with addiction (to what who cares), Lupul also had heart problems leading up to his death in July 2007. Did you know: When Cliff Ronning joined the Canucks he chose #7 for his jersey because Lupul was his hero growing up. True story. More on the tragic Lupul story here. 243 points in 293 NHL games..impressive.

-Ron Delorme. After 1982, Delorme played 3 more seasons with the Canucks and then retired at the age of 30. According to Wiki he is the current Chief Amateur Scout for the Canucks.

-Marc Crawford. The Canucks were the only NHL team that Crow played for. But during his 6 year tenure here he bounced back and forth between Vancouver and their affiliate Fredericton Express. (Geez, air miles much?) Crow retired in 1989. He immediately pursued a coaching career and started in the OHL and then the AHL (where he won coach of the year honors in 1993). In the 1993-94 season he earned the head coaching job for the Quebec Nordiques. That was already a hell of a team. He won the Jack Adams as coach of the year and is stil the youngest coach to do so, I believe. When the Nordiques moved to Colorado the following season the team under Crawford won the Stanley Cup. From there, it's a blur of: coaching the 1998 Canadian team in Nagano and putting a d-man out there in the shootout, becoming coach of the Canucks and leading them to resurgence, the Bertuzzi saga, getting canned, failing as a coach in LA, currently coaching the Dallas Stars.


Harold-snepsts_medium -Harold Snepsts. Did you know that Harold Snepsts played in 2 NHL All Star Games (1977 and 1982)? Not me. Snepsts played 2 more seasons with the Canucks after the '82 run and then was dealt to the North Stars in exchange for Al MacAdam on March 21, 1984. MacAdam played one season for the Canucks and that was it for his NHL career. Snepsts struggled with Minnesota in his first season there and then was signed by the (GASP!) Detroit Red Wings. Even back then I puked at the sight of Snepsts in a Wings jersey. My hate for them runs deep. His tenure in Detroit was somewhat marred by leg and shoulder injuries, even though he helped them get to the Conference Finals for their 2nd consecutive year in 1988. The Canucks signed Snepsts as a free agent in 1988 and in the 1988-89 season Snepsts and crew achieved the lowest goals against totals in franchise history. They would lose to the eventual Cup-winning Calgary Flames in 7 games in round 1 that year though. Bastards.

In March 1990 Snepsts and Rich Sutter were traded to the Blues for Adrien Plavsic and a couple of picks. Snepsts would play only 54 games for the Blues in 1990-91 and then retire. 2009 PIM's for his career. Atta boy, Harold. Snepsts stayed with the Blues' organization as a coach to their affiliate and then assistant coach to the Blues team. After that, Snepsts was a head coach for the San Diego Gulls of the IHL, as well as the newborn Portland Winterhawks in 1998. From 2000-05 he was a scout for the NHL's Central Scouting Service. He returned to the Canucks' organization as a scout in 2005.

-Doug Halward. Halward had his best season as a Canuck in 1982-83, scoring 19 goals and 52 points in 75 games and then his production dipped off over the next few years. He was traded to the Red Wings for a 3rd round pick on November 21, 1986, where he played just over a season before being flogged to Edmonton for peanuts. He retired in 1989 at 34 years of age.

-Lars Lindgren. On October 20, 1983 the Canucks traded Lindgren to the North Stars for a 3rd round pick (which they pissed away...anyone ever hear of Landis Chaulk??). He finished that season with Minnesota and then returned to Sweden to play for Lulea and then retired. He coached Lulea soon after.

-Neil Belland. In and out of the Canucks lineup up to 1986 and then the same scenario with the Penguins in the 1986-87 season, Belland would play the remaining 7 years of his career in Europe with Finand and mostly Austria.

-Colin Campbell. Detroit signed Campbell as a free agent in July 1982. He played 3 seasons for those twerps and retired at the age of 32 in 1985. He immediately became assistant coach of the Red Wings under Jacques Demers until 1990. In 1991 he joined the Rangers as an assistant coach and kept that position until the Rangers won the Cup in 1994. In 1995 he took over head coaching duties in place of Mike Keenan until he was fired late in 1998. Soon after he got a job as NHL Senior VP and Director of Hockey Operations.

-Anders Eldebrink. The Swede played 5 games with the Canucks in the 1982-83 season before being traded to the Quebec Nordiques in February 1983 in exchange for......John Garrett. Eldebrink only played 12 games for the Nords that season and returned to Europe in 1985 to play 7 more seasons in Switzerland and Sweden.


-Richard Brodeur. Brodeur played with the Canucks all the way until the 1987-88 season. Much like his successor Kirk McLean, his numbers dwindled as time went on as did the play of the team. On March 9, 1988 he was traded to the Whalers in exchange for Steve Weeks. Weeks did not fill the goaltending void very well in Vancouver. Brodeur, then 36, played only 6 games for Hartford and retired in 1989. He founded a hockey school in Vancouver and is also an artist. Check out some of his oil paintings here. Long live King Richard!


-What is the average age that these guys retired? 34? Unreal.

-The Canucks traded Curt Fraser, Ivan Boldirev and Anders Eldebrink all within a month in 1983.

-Amazing how lousy the post-1982 and post-1994 Canucks teams became for years on end. Geez.

-Stan Smyl, obviously, was the last remaining Canuck from the 1982 roster.

-It's amazing how that Canucks team came together in 1982, considering that so many of them were Europeans who were not there for very long in the first place and did not stay long afterwards.

-Remember these guys. Remember those who have passed away. They are a huge part of our team's history and should never be forgotten.


The killer tandem of Gradin and Smyl

HARRROLD! What the hell were you thinking?

Sorry, Harry. OK, here's a better clip of Snepsts, as he fights his future teammate Ron Delorme:

Canucks-Blackhawks Game 5 1982 Playoffs in it's entirety!

The video is lousy, but you can see Dave Semenko pounding Ron Delorme's head in but Delorme doesn't go down

Tiger destroys Hawks' Dupont. Get out your magic pen, Howie!

In Memory of Gary Lupul

Gary Lupul image courtesy of Ken Henderson from Offside Sports.

Info sources: Hockey Database, Wikipedia, History of NHL Trades.