This week in Canucks history: The last game at the Pacific Coliseum

On May 27, 1995, the Canucks played their final game at the Pacific Coliseum, their home for 25 years.
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Chicago Blackhawks forward Denis Savard cut to the middle of the ice, finding a streaking Chris Chelios in the slot. Chelios fired a quick shot through the legs of Vancouver Canucks’ goalie Kirk McLean, putting an end to both the Canucks’ season and the arena they’d called home for their first 25 years in the NHL.

That day, May 27, 1995, Canucks fans left the Pacific Coliseum for the final time. They headed for the exit doors among the building’s windowless concrete shell and drove out of the undersized, unlevel parking lot or off the lawns of nearby homes — wherever they could find parking. The sun had set on another hockey season in which their team had fallen short of the Stanley Cup. Now, it had set on an era of hockey in Vancouver.

Just over four months later, the Canucks would open the 1995-96 season in their new home, General Motors Place, which is now Rogers Arena.

History of the Pacific Coliseum

The Hastings-Sunrise neighbourhood is a time capsule of Vancouver. On Renfrew Street, just south of the coliseum, rows of Vancouver specials — the style of house popularized in the city from the 1960s to the 1980s — are interspersed by newer homes built in the decades since.

Completed in 1968, the Pacific Coliseum fits right in. Its formalist style — windowless, gray and shaped like a hockey puck — bears resemblance to other arenas built around the same time — Edmonton’s Northlands Coliseum being one.

The coliseum was a basic facility. It lacked the modern amenities of newer arenas — it had few suites and one concourse serving the upper and lower seating levels.

The Canucks played their first NHL game at the coliseum on Oct. 9, 1970 — a 3-1 loss to the Los Angeles Kings.

Playing host to history

RANGERS V CANUCKS / Mike Powell/GettyImages

Over its quarter century as the home of hockey in Vancouver, the coliseum played host to some of Vancouver’s greatest hockey moments.

The coliseum hosted the 1982 and 1994 Stanley Cup Finals. The Islanders swept the Canucks in 1982, lifting the cup on the coliseum’s ice after game four. But that spring would mark the beginning of towel power. Playoff towels were sold outside the arena as playoff fever hit Vancouver for the first time.

In 1991, Pavel Bure played his first NHL game at the coliseum, bringing the crowd to its feet as the “Russian Rocket” took flight.

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Though the Canucks’ 1994 playoff run fell one game short of the Stanley Cup, the coliseum played host to an unforgettable game six, in which the Canucks escaped elimination with a 4-1 win. A hurt Trevor Linden prompted the most famous call in Canucks history at the time, courtesy of Jim Robson:

“He will play, you know he'll play. He'll play on crutches. He will play, and he'll play on Tuesday night at Madison Square Garden.”

The final game

Chicago entered game four with a 3-0 series lead over Vancouver. The Canucks, one year removed from losing game seven of the Stanley Cup Finals, were on the brink of elimination.

After a scoreless first period, the teams traded goals in the middle frame. Jeff Brown opened the scoring for the Canucks just over four minutes in, before former Canuck Murray Craven evened the score 12 seconds later.

Vancouver would take a 3-1 lead off Roman Oksiuta’s two goals and appeared in control of game four with under three minutes to play in the second period.

In the final minute of the second, Gerald Diduck brought the Blackhawks within one. Midway through the third, Jeremy Roenick tied it.

In the extra frame, Chelios, who had also scored the overtime winner in game three, completed Chicago’s comeback. The coliseum’s time as Vancouver’s hockey cathedral was over.