Roger Neilson gave birth to “Towel Power”. But it was the fans at the Pacific Coliseum that made it a Canucks tradition and his legacy.
It started in Game 2 vs the Chicago Blackhawks in late April, 1982. The officiating was horrible and seemingly one-sided that night, it enraged the Canucks bench. It angered them so much assistant coach, Ron Smith, yelled out “We give up, we surrender, we give up!” “Tiger” Williams suggested to throw sticks on the ice as a form of protest, but Roger Neilson thought this would be more effective.
Putting a white towel atop the end of a hockey stick, Neilson raised the “white flag” as a form of mock surrender. That action had Neilson ejected from the game and the Canucks lost 4-1 but came home from Chicago with a split. Neilson was then fined $1000 and the Canucks were fined $10,000. Neilson was criticized by referee Myers about his actions and was described as “bush league”. The NHL commented on how this was a disgrace to the playoffs. However the officials, other fans and the league reacted, it sparked a battle cry that no one expected from the Canucks’ fan base.
Some of the Canucks fans greeted the team at the airport waving white towels when they returned back to Vancouver. When Neilson and the team came home to the Pacific Coliseum on May 1, 1982, they were greeted with thousands of fans in the stands waving white towels.
What happened at the old Rink of Renfrew today back in 1982 started what we today call “Towel Power”. Thousands of fans in the stands brought white towels as a rally cry for the Canucks to win the series and move on in the playoffs. The 1982 Canucks made it to the Stanley Cup final, but falling in only four games to the powerhouse, New York Islanders. It didn’t matter. A Vancouver Canucks tradition was born and it has been embraced for the last 33 years. Every playoff season, the Vancouver Canucks lay out “playoff towels” for fans to wave before each game. It’s a tradition we love and made our own and what a back-story it was to give it life.
Thanks Roger, you are forever remembered. Keep waving that towel!
This happened Today in Canucks’ History, May 1st, 1982.