Doing a jersey story without talking to Don Taylor is like somebody other than Trevor Linden wearing No. 16 for the Vancouver Canucks.
It has happened. But it doesn’t feel right.
Taylor’s seemingly innate knack for recalling who has worn what jersey number in the good old days has been a mainstay of his TV highlight recaps for the legendary Sports Page — and now with Sportsnet.
So, when the idea to look at the most successful uniform numbers in Canucks history came up, Taylor was an obvious guy to lean on. And, quicker than you can say “wearing Sheldon Kannegiesser’s old No. 5,” Taylor agreed to help out.
Here’s a look at some of his favourites.
The cliche selection would have been No. 1, which has been worn by the likes of Canucks most valuable players Gary Smith, Glen Hanlon, Kirk McLean and Roberto Luongo. Of course, there’s No. 9, too, which has been the property of Don Lever, Ivan Boldirev, Tony Tanti and Russ Courtnall, and seems to be making a comeback with fans in the stands thanks to Zack Kassian.
Taylor, being Taylor, would never be run-of-the-mill, though.
“No. 22,” he explained. “Why? Easy. Two of the Canucks’ top four scorers of all time wore this number. One of them is Daniel Sedin. The other is Markus Naslund.
“OK, maybe Naslund is bettter know for wearing No. 19. But Jeff Brown, one of the most talented defencemen to ever play for the Canucks, wore No. 22. So did Tiger Williams and, if there’s one thing none of us wants to do, it’s to get Tiger mad.
“So No. 22 it is.”
Naslund did wear No. 22 when he came over from the Pittsburgh Penguins in 1996. He changed to his more familiar No. 19 the following campaign.
Jeff Brown (right) was wearing No. 22 when he made the famous breakaway pass to Pavel Bure during the 1994 playoffs against the Calgary Flames. That came one period after Kirk McLean (left) made The Save. (Rick Loughran/PNG files)
Taylor wanted to pick No. 22 again. And while there’s something to making Tiger happy, it certainly would have hampered this entire exercise to go with that jersey throughout. Taylor agreed, and pegged No. 29.
Some might look at that as a simple selection, considering Gino Odjick, Vancouver’s all-time penalty minutes leader, wore it for the majority of his career in town, but there was more to it than that for Taylor.
“Jack McIlhargey, Randy Boyd, Daryl Stanley, Glen Cochrane … they were all warriors and they all wore No. 29,” he explained. “But here’s the clincher: Felix Potvin was a Vancouver goaltender who could throw ‘em. Number? You guessed it: 29.”
Other candidates in the category would have been No. 3, thanks to Pat Quinn and Bob Dailey; No. 8, which belonged to Bobby Schmautz, Jim Nill, Donald Brashear and Willie Mitchell; and No. 24, which was adorned by Curt Fraser, Scott Walker, Matt Cooke and Darcy Hordichuk.
Taylor loves goalies who can throw, so Felix Potvin tips the scale in favour of No. 29 as the toughest Canucks number. (Steve Bosch/PNG files)
Taylor went with No. 7, citing Andre Boudrias, Gary Lupul, Barry Pederson, Cliff Ronning and Brendan Morrison in the process.
“Some of the most productive, exciting, yet relatively unheralded Canucks of all time,” he continued. “But, the main reason I’m giving No. 7 the honour of being the most underrated Canucks number of all time is obvious: the ill-fated Seventh Man promotion of 2008. It’s been five years, but I still don’t think it received proper recognition as the most wildly unsuccessful marketing idea in the history of sports.”
Cliff Ronning quietly got it done in No. 7 for the Canucks for many years, helping make it the most underrated number. (Peter Battistoni/PNG files)
Taylor fell in line with the masses here, going with No. 11. There was a large fuss when it was given to Mark Messier in 1997, since it had been looked upon as de facto retired. Wayne Maki wore it during Vancouver’s first three years in the league. He was diagnosed with brain cancer in December 1972 and died in May 1974.
“Mark Messier stole it from the Maki family,” explained Taylor. “Enough said.”
Wayne Maki’s widow Bev posed for The Province in 1997, when she was upset about Mark Messier being given her late husband’s number. (Bill Keay/PNG files)
The No. 17 had its early highlights with the Canucks, including Ron Sedlbauer’s 40 goals in 1978-79 and Patrik Sundstrom’s 91 points in 1983-84, but then hit some hard times, only to bounce back just recently.
“From Vladimir Krutov’s waistline to Jimmy Carson’s invisibility to Mike Ridley’s bad back, the No. 17 had a run of futility in Vancouver only a Toronto Maple Leafs’ fan could relate to,” explained Taylor. “But that run has halted by a certain kid from Livonia, Mich.
“Underwear isn’t the only thing Ryan Kesler wears well.”
Vladimir Krutov wore No. 17 during its dark years. (PNG files)
A FEW WELL-KNOWN PLAYERS WHO WORE NO. 16 BEFORE TREVOR LINDEN
No. 25: Kevin Bieksa
No. 20: Ryan Kesler
No. 27: Todd Bertuzzi
BOBBY SCHMAUTZ’S CANUCKS NUMBERS
20, 9, 14, 8, 10
CRAIG COXE’S CANUCKS NUMBERS
27, 32, 28. 21. 22
A FEW PLAYERS WHO WORE No. 33 BEFORE HENRIK SEDIN
Check out the latest Province Sports podcast, featuring Steve Ewen and sports editor Jonathan McDonald, at theprovincepodcasts.com. And Ewen is in a Province Sports video, all about the jerseys, at provincesports.com. Follow him on Twitter @steveewen.