In an unforgettable evening in 2013, the Vancouver Canucks would set a new franchise record, and finally get their chance to wear the uniform of a Vancouver-based Stanley Cup champion.
There’s just one problem: it’s not their team.
In 1915, the Vancouver Millionaires brought the city its first, and only Stanley Cup to-date. Led by Fred “Cyclone” Taylor, the Millionaires swept the Ottawa Senators in three games. On March 26, 1915, they lifted the cup on home ice at Vancouver’s Denman Arena.
Fast forward nearly a century later. The Canucks, always progressive in their promotional campaigns, acquired the name and logo of the Vancouver Millionaires. Initially, the team only planned to sell a few Millionaires-branded items in the Canucks Team Store.
That all changed in 2013. Approaching the centennial anniversary of the Millionaires’ cup win, the Canucks announced that they would honour Vancouver hockey history through their uniforms.
Early in the lockout-shortened 2013 season, the Canucks unveiled a recoloured Millionaires patch to be worn on their alternate jerseys. The team initially planned to wear Millionaires patches on their home and away jerseys as well, going as far as producing jerseys with the patch for game use; however, this idea was scrapped before they hit the ice, possibly due to the team’s already-cluttered jersey design.
In the announcement, the team hinted that they would honour the Millionaires’ legacy further when they would host the Detroit Red Wings on March 16.
The Red Wings were a fitting opponent for a more formal celebration. Frank and Lester Patrick, who launched the Pacific Coast Hockey Association, were involved with both the Millionaires and the Victoria Cougars. In 1926, the majority of the Cougars’ roster was bought out and they became the Detroit NHL expansion franchise, which was eventually renamed the Red Wings.
The Patricks were instrumental in creating the game we’ve come to appreciate and admire today.
“Seeking a faster paced level of hockey, the Patrick brothers revolutionized the game and were founding fathers of professional hockey in Vancouver as they introduced the PCHA and a number of new rules,” the Canucks wrote in a news brief announcing the throwback uniforms. Changes implemented by the Patricks included “adding numbers to players’ sweaters, allowing forward passing in the neutral zone, implementing the penalty shot and utilizing artificial ice.”
Ideally, the Canucks would pay tribute to the Millionaires when they played the Ottawa Senators, who they defeated in the 1915 finals. Due to the lockout, teams only played opponents within their conferences during the regular season, forcing the Canucks to wait another year for a visual rematch of the 1915 championship.
The Canucks were scheduled to host the Senators on December 8, 2012, but it isn’t known if they had planned any celebrations for this game. Even though Ottawa had an appropriately-designed alternate jersey at the time, they likely wouldn’t have been able to wear it because it was primarily black, and too similar to the dark red Millionaires jerseys.
The Millionaires jerseys presented another marketing opportunity for the Canucks. The Canucks Team Store took pre-orders for collectors’ series Millionaires replica jerseys, and two sets of game-worn jerseys were produced to be sold. Patches and apparel were also available.
The first production run of these jerseys came with a certificate of authenticity from the team, an information card and photographs of both the Millionaires and the Canucks wearing the uniforms.
This game had created a buzz among Canucks fans and jersey collectors not seen in nearly two years, during the Canucks’ 40th anniversary season.
When the puck dropped, the Canucks didn’t take long to continue building the night’s legacy.
Six seconds into the opening period, Alex Burrows took a one-timer off a pass from Daniel Sedin, beating Jimmy Howard to open the scoring. The goal set a new franchise record for the fastest goal to start a game.
Unfortunately, the Canucks were unable to keep this momentum going through the rest of the game. While they created multiple quality scoring chances in the first period, they weren’t able to capitalize on any of them.
Detroit scored five straight goals en route to a 5-2 victory, spoiling the resurrection of the Millionaires jerseys and possibly hinting at what would come of the uniforms in the future.
The Canucks wore the maroon and off-white look twice following the Detroit game: the infamous Heritage Classic where John Tortorella benched Roberto Luongo, and again in 2015, on the 100th anniversary of the Millionaires’ Stanley Cup win.
After going 0-3 in the Millionaires uniforms, the Canucks stopped wearing them after the 2014-15 season, auctioning off most of the players’ used equipment from the set.
We probably won’t see the Millionaires jerseys again in the near-future, with the Canucks committed to their current identity, and using the skate uniform as an occasional throwback.
The Millionaires uniforms could be a nice inspiration for a reverse retro uniform, but the Canucks seem to have gone in another direction for the next iteration.
Still, it’s nice to revisit the legacy these uniforms had, and maybe it’s a good thing the team isn’t planning on bringing them back again, given their poor record while wearing them, and the Luongo incident.