Vancouver Canucks: An Aesthetic History – The 70s & 80s

Having gone through a colour palette rivalling that of a rainbow, saying the Vancouver Canucks have had a colourful jersey history is putting it mildly. From the stick-in-rink to the crashing orca, this three-part series will take a look at the aesthetics of the team’s uniforms.

This series is aimed for jersey collectors and enthusiasts looking to get as close as possible to the real deal. It will break down the design and material of gamers of that design. Big shoutout to nhluniforms, nhlpatches and SportsLogos, all of which are great resources for info and pictures!

BLUE AND GREEN

After being denied an expansion an expansion franchise in 1967, the league finally relented (after being threatened with a lawsuit) and awarded Vancouver an NHL franchise for the 1970-71 season.

Immediately, the Canucks drew inspiration from the beautiful BC outdoors and chose two unmistakably Pacific-northwest colors: Royal Blue and Kelly Green.  The original stick-in-rink design was designed by Joe Borovich and features a blue ice-rink intersected by a white hockey stick from the right (pictured above). Cleverly, the green outline around the rink subtly forms the letter “C”. On the primarily blue road uniforms, the colors were reversed save for the green outline.

1970 – 1972

The inaugural Vancouver Canucks home jersey featured two stripes of  Royal Blue and Kelly Green along the waist, cut down in the middle by a thin white stripe. The sleeves were dipped in blue at the ends, and had the same two stripes with a ‘V’ stitched over them. The road jerseys were almost identical, with the only change being of the striping; Instead of one stripe of each colour, it featured two green stripes. Both jerseys were composed of durene fabric.

In its first year, a white, wide block font was used for the jersey numbers, and the pants featured a thick white stripe flanked by two thinner green ones. During the second year, the numbers changed to the standard block format and the pants’ striping changed to feature a thick green stripe along two white ones.

1972 – 1977

Two seasons after their NHL debut, the Canucks made the first change to their jerseys. In place of the earlier striping was one thick green one, which was flanked by two thin blue stripes on the home jersey and two thin white ones on the road. Additionally, the rink in the logo became a little more squat, and the pants’ striping changed slightly.

1977 – 1978

In the 1977-78 season, the NHL began requiring teams to add names to their jerseys. The Canucks did so, with the home whites initially featuring a blue name bar due to a lack of white ones.

THE HALLOWEEN ERA

During the summer of 1978, the Vancouver Canucks worked with a marketing firm called Beyl and Boyd to come up with a new look. The San Francisco-based company viewed the current colour scheme as too “cool” and “tranquil,” recommending a change to red and orange.

As part of the rebranding, Beyl and Boyd chose a logo designed by Mike Bull: a diagonal skate drawn with 18 different diagonal lines and featuring the word “Canucks” below it (not-so-affectionately referred to as the “Spaghetti Plate” or “Downhill Skate”. You can find out more about the changes here.

1978 – 1979

The first uniform iteration was a significant departure from the rest of the league. The bright-yellow home jerseys featured a gigantic orange and black “V” (which Beyl and Boyd insisted stood for Victory instead of Vancouver) across the chest, as well as two smaller ones on the sleeves. The predominantly black road jerseys were similar, with an orange and yellow “V” in the same place. Both the pants and socks featured “V”s as well, totalling 7 throughout the entire uniform.

The jerseys were originally manufactured by Bill Vanderburg. It was made mostly out of heavy mesh except for the heavy-knit fabric used on the shoulders, and the “V” itself was an elastic fabric straight-sewed onto the jersey. Player names were orange, with black (or yellow for the road jerseys) numbers located below it and on the bottom of the sleeves, using a wide block font similar to the original jerseys. Interestingly, the Canucks logo was relegated to a secondary position on the sleeves.

Fun fact: The Canucks players did not know what the uniforms looked like before their first game wearing them. Can you imagine some of their reactions?

1979 – 1980

A minor change was made to the new look for its sophomore season, replacing the “V”s on the socks with horizontal stripes. The “V” count now totals 5.

1980 – 1981

Another minor change was made one year before the Canuck’s first Stanley Cup run: The black panel along the chest and sleeves were connected, forming one continuous panel encompassing all “V”s. Manufacturing was also moved to Sandow SK, although the materials used remained virtually identical.

1981 – 1982

Apparently Sandow SK did not care about changing designs, because the Canucks made another minor modifications during the 1981-82 season. The name were now black and the numbers were now outlined in orange to help with visibility.

1982 – 1985

The orange-trimmed numbers of the previous revision must have been popular as the names were now outlined the same way.

However, that was not the only change. After the Great Cup Run of ’82, Maska took over the manufacture of Canucks jerseys. While the design stayed mostly the same, the numbers were now moved to the top of the sleeves (pushing the logo and sleeve “V” down), and its font was made skinnier. Maska also replaced the heavy mesh with Ultrafil, and changed the cut so that the sleeves hung down like garbage bags.

During the 1984-85 season, the Vancouver Canucks wore their first patch in franchise history: a rectangle with the letters “JCM” embroidered within. The patch was a tribute to their late general manager and Senior Vice-President John C. “Jake” Milford, who passed away on December 24, 1984. The patch was placed on the left shoulder on the home jerseys and the left chest on the road.

1985 – 1989

The Vancouver Canucks finished off the last half of the decade by returning to a more traditional sweater-style. Gone was the “V” on the chest, replaced by a bigger version of the Spaghetti Plate that was previously placed on the sleeves. Although the home jerseys remained bright yellow, traditional orange and black horizontal striping returned. Similarly, the road jerseys remained black, with orange and yellow horizontal striping.

The “V”s were not completely eliminated, however. On the jerseys, they moved to the shoulder yokes (which looked kind of like wings) while the ones on the pants remained. The CCM brand, which had merged with Maska earlier, is now present on the Ultrafil jersey.

Many patches appeared on this jersey despite its brief existence. During the 1985-86 season, the Canucks wore patches commemorating the Vancouver’s centennial and the Expo ’86 World Fair. A year later, the team wore a patch supporting Rick Hansen’s Man in Motion Tour (placed on the left-bottom hem). Lastly, a rectangular patch embroidered with “BABE” was worn during the 1988-89 season to honour hockey player and Canuck Goodwill Ambassador Walter “Babe” Pratt.

CONCLUSION

The Vancouver Canucks did not see much success during its first few years in the NHL (not many expansion teams do), so it was understandable that management looked to rebrand in 1978. Although the resulting Flying V is still regarded as one of the ugliest jerseys in sports history, it still holds a place in my heart for being the uniform that took us through our first Cup run.

Stay tuned for Parts II and III of this series. In the meantime, check out my Flying V jerseys, as well as the rest of my all-time collection here. If you are looking to buy a jersey, take a look at my post detailing the current Reebok Edge jerseys as well.

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