On Super Bowl Sunday last year, Sportsnet reposted an image on Instagram of Vancouver Canucks‘ head coach Bruce Boudreau decked out in a black tracksuit and hat both adorned with the team’s skate logo at practice.
“[Drip] too hard don’t stand too close,” the caption read, in reference to the song by Gunna and Lil Baby.
It was a perfectly-timed post with appropriate fun sprinkled into the caption, especially considering the rejuvenated feeling among every Canucks’ stakeholder at the time. Two months into the Boudreau era, chants of “Bruce, there it is” filled Rogers Arena as the team began to pick up wins heading into the playoff push.
Fresh off a 3-2 win over the Toronto Maple Leafs the day before, spirits were high. And one of the franchise’s best uniforms in its history was making a surprise return.
Less than two weeks later, the Canucks, dressed head-to-toe in black, gold and red, thrashed the Calgary Flames 7-1 in one of the team’s best games of the season. It was such an iconic night that players were calling for the skate being the Canucks’ full-time look.
Garland would get his wish – albeit briefly – in the team’s final two home games of the 2021-22 season.
With the Canucks facing elimination from playoff contention, the team brought the set back for their games against the Seattle Kraken and Los Angeles Kings. They won both.
The Kings game on April 28th marked the end of the third rebirth of the skate uniform in modern Canucks history. After the team introduced the orca logo as its main identity in 1997, the skate didn’t hit the ice for nearly two decades. But since the Canucks first brought it back as a throwback seven years ago, it’s grown ever so popular with fans and players alike.
In the summer of 2015, as the Canucks prepared to celebrate the 20th anniversary of their home rink, it was announced that the skate would be making a one-game comeback that season.
February 13th, 2016 was both a memorable and forgettable day of hockey in Vancouver. The skate indeed made its comeback on one of the biggest stages of the season – Vancouver’s annual 4:00pm home game against the Toronto Maple Leafs.
“It’s a big night,” former Canucks’ defenceman Yannick Weber told reporters before the game. “It’s Saturday, it’s an afternoon game, it’s against Toronto where everyone wants to watch, and us playing in those jerseys, it’s a very special night.”
"“Definitely an honour for us to be able to put that jersey on and give the fans a good game.”"
The Canucks went all-out in promoting this special occasion. Members of the 1995-96 team – the first to play in what was then known as General Motors Place, including Trevor Linden, Gino Odjick, Kirk McLean and Jyrki Lumme – participated in the ceremonial puck drop, the team store stocked its fixtures with skate jerseys and apparel, and the Canucks laid down a new logo mat in the centre of their locker room.
“I think it’s a great uniform,” said then-captain Henrik Sedin. “I looked at pictures when they used to wear it before and I think it’s a very nice uniform, so I’m hoping we’re going to be wearing it a little bit more.”
Unfortunately, the Canucks came out flat and lost 5-2 to the struggling Maple Leafs, who were well on their way to the bottom of the National Hockey League standings.
And for over two years, we didn’t hear the skate mentioned again.
Ahead of the Canucks’ 50th anniversary season, fans were invited to vote for what the team would wear as its golden anniversary uniform. The options? The “flying V,” the original orca and the skate.
The skate won by thousands of votes, to no one’s surprise.
“An iconic jersey of our past, worn during one of our most storied times – the Black Skate jersey allows us to feature the loud and dynamic colour palette of that era during our celebratory season,” the Canucks said in a statement promoting the uniforms.
It was one of four “new” sweaters unveiled by the Canucks prior to the 2019-20 season. Originally, it was scheduled to be worn for three games, but the team ended up wearing it for four before the NHL shut down the season due to COVID-19 concerns in March 2020.
Once again, what was once old was new again in Vancouver. The skate’s second renaissance came on another Hockey Night in Canada matchup, this time a Saturday night meeting with the Colorado Avalanche on November 16th, 2019. Like the first time around, the uniform was praised by players.
Former Canucks defenceman and Richmond, B.C. local Troy Stecher grew up in the era of the Canucks’ navy blue orca uniforms, but still idolized the skate.
A day before their debut, Stecher told reporters that he remembered watching highlights of the skate jersey and using it in video games.
“Just highlight clips on YouTube of Bure, obviously, and Linden,” Stecher recalled. “Playing video games, you always kinda throw them on.”
"“I think they’re so clean-looking. I’m a big fan.”"
Goaltender Thatcher Demko was a big fan of the special equipment he got for throwback games.
“It’s fun for me,” Demko said. “I got pads and [a] helmet, and sticks and stuff, so a little bit of excitement for me and [Jacob Markstrom] getting to design that and I think they look really sharp, so I think the guys will be flying around tomorrow.”
This time around, the Canucks didn’t disappoint in the games in which they wore the skate.
In the Colorado game, Vancouver managed a two-goal third period comeback effort, which included a thrilling game-tying goal from Brock Boeser with one minute remaining before losing 5-4 in overtime.
Three weeks later, the Canucks took to the ice in “flying V” jerseys for warm ups before putting on their black tops for an afternoon date with the Buffalo Sabres. Vancouver emerged victorious with a 6-5 overtime win, capped off by a J.T. Miller one-timer that popped Sabres’ goaltender Carter Hutton’s water bottle.
During “Sedin Week” in February 2020, the Canucks wore the retro threads for the last time that season in a 6-2 win over the Nashville Predators on Feb. 10, 2020. This game was classified as “Legends nNght” as the team unveiled new banners for their retired jersey numbers, reflective of the teams’ uniforms during different eras of Canucks hockey.
But the ultimate spectacle was a rematch of the 1994 Stanley Cup Finals on January 4th, 2020 as the Canucks hosted the New York Rangers. Though in 1994, teams wore white at home, this game certainly felt like a throwback night as the Canucks celebrated their ’90s era, one of the team’s many theme nights during its illustrious 50th anniversary season. A late Tyler Myers goal lifted Vancouver to a 2-1 victory.
Like the aftermath of the 2016 game, we didn’t see much of the skate for another two years. Some fans called for the Canucks to wear it during the 2020 playoffs, but this wouldn’t have been allowed because the skate was considered a “specialty” jersey, not a full-time home or alternate set.
The Canucks have been secretive about their future plans for the skate uniform since their 50th anniversary. The skate’s third renaissance last February was a surprise to many, but reading between the lines, it could have been the start of something we’ll see more often.
The Canucks don’t have a full-time alternate jersey anymore, with the team announcing its retirement in October. Last season, it was only worn for a handful of games and didn’t see the ice in the final month of the regular season.
While reporting that the team was planning on bringing them back for the final two home games last season, Rob Williams of Daily Hive wrote that NHL teams commonly phase in and phase out uniforms during a rebrand, and questioned whether that was the case with the Canucks.
This year, the team was spotted practicing in skate-themed gear, signalling another rebirth of the skate. With the reverse retro being the team’s priority marketing project during the holiday season, it makes sense that the Canucks would want to put off a skate comeback until the new year.
Tuesday’s game against the New York Islanders was marked as “90’s Night” on the Canucks ticketing website. This would’ve been a perfect occasion for them to wear the skate uniform, but all we know is that the gear will reportedly be auctioned off at the team’s Dice and Ice fundraiser later this spring.
With the team putting the effort into creating special gear in the skate colourway adored by fans, and making the players practice with it, it would make sense that once again, we will see the skate uniforms make a return to the ice. But it remains to be seen if that is the case, and if so, how often and for how long.
But if you ask fans and players, this time around, it should be for good.
What are your thoughts on the black skate jersey? Let us know below!