Johnny Canuck was a Canadian cartoon hero and superhero who was created as a political cartoon in 1869 and was later re-invented, first in 1942, then in 1975.
Johnny Canuck was created as a lumber jack national personification of Canada. He first appeared in early political cartoons dating to 1869 where he was portrayed as a younger cousin of the United States' Uncle Sam and Britain's John Bull. Depicted as a wholesome, if simple-minded, fellow in the garb of a habitant, farmer, logger, rancher or soldier, he often resisted the bullying of John Bull or Uncle Sam. For thirty years, he was a staple of editorial cartoonists. Then, in the early twentieth century, he faded from view.
The character re-emerged during World War II in the February 1942 issue of Bell's Dime Comics No.1. Cartoonist Leo Bachle created the character as a teenager, apparently on a challenge from a Bell executive.
In 1945 the Pacific Coast Hockey League established an ice hockey franchise in the city of Vancouver. Known as the Canucks, they immediately enjoyed success by winning PCHL championships in their first (1946) and third (1948) year of existence. In 1952, the PCHL merged with the Western Canada Senior Hockey League to form the professional Western Hockey League.
The Canucks would again win the President's/Lester Patrick Cup in 1958, 1960, 1969, and 1970. The team played at the Vancouver Forum.
In 1965, when the NHL announced plans to expand to six additional markets, the owner of the WHL's Canucks (and former Vancouver mayor), Fred Hume, announced that the city of Vancouver would apply. However, the presentation to the NHL's Board of Governors was sloppily prepared. Because of this, and the fact that the Vancouver ownership group was disliked by Detroit Red Wings owner Bruce Norris and Toronto Maple Leafs majority-owner Stafford Smythe (who hated Vancouver in general because of a failed arena plan), the application did not succeed. Nevertheless, the Pacific Coliseum, which was to be the first home for a prospective Vancouver NHL team, was built on the grounds of the Pacific National Exhibition (PNE).
1970-1978 The original 1970-71 jersey conceived by local creative designer Joe Borovich for which he received the princely sum of $500!. After the first year, the "V" disappeared off the sleeves. This designed lasted eight seasons, highlighted by the club's first divisional title in 1974-75.
1978-1984 It's colours were deemed aggressive and the design was often criticized as outrageous. But it became very trendy in 1982 when Vancouver went all the way to the Stanley Cup finals.
Prior to the start of the 1978-79 season, the Canucks had undergone a personnel shuffle which saw the advent of Harry Neale as head coach, plus nine new players, including four Swedish skaters (Thomas Gradin, Lars Lindgren, Lars Zetterstrom and Roland Eriksson). It was also the first season for a feisty rookie named Stan Smyl!
To complete the facelift, they hired a design agency (Beyl & Boyd) out of San Francisco to redesign the uniforms. That determined that "our old colours were bland, too tranquil and did not inspire emotion." They then came up with the "V" design with a small "downward skate" logo on each shoulder. The bright orange was said to "evoke passion and aggression" while the predominantly black road jersey would instill fear in the opposition.
These Canuck uniforms were met with much derision around the NHL, and they were often referred to as "those Halloween suits". They became much more palatable in 1982, however, when the team went all the way to the Stanley Cup final, prompting one long-time local cynic to observe: "I don't care if they wear pyjamas as long as they play like that.”
1990-1997 Those unis were modified to feature the skate logo on the chest, although they did retain the same yellow home colour from 1984 to 1989.
In 1989-90, on directions from GM Pat Quinn, they reverted to the white field colour for the home jersey and black for the road.
1997-2007 The most recent Canuck jersey features a stylized killer whale breaking through the ice, a symbolic emblem of "where we're from". It was locally designed by Brent Lynch. In the late 1990s a new "third" jersey was utilized, with contrasting shoulder patches and a blue-to-maroon graduated colour in the body.
1. Stan Smyl
When the Canucks selected Stan Smyl in the 3rd round (40th overall) of the 1978 Amateur Draft, there were snickers from some of the other clubs. But he had helped lead the New Westminster Bruins to two Memorial Cup Championships and their coach, Punch McLean, assured Canuck GM Jake Milford that he'd never be sorry he'd picked "The Steamer". He became team captain in 1982 and led the Canucks all the way to the Stanley Cup finals against the New York Islanders.
Read more about the 50 Greatest Canucks
The guys had no idea what fury Roger Nielsen had unleashed a night earlier in the old Chicago Staduim.
It was spring 1982, and the upstart Canucks were returning home after splitting the first two games of the Campbell Conference championship against a heavily favoured Blackhawks team.
When they landed at YVR and began taxying towards the terminal, two fire trucks pulled out onto the tarmac on either side of the plane forming an impromptu escort.
At first they thought a wing had caught fire. Then they saw the towels.
“They had stuck hockey sticks in their fenders with white towels tied on them,” said Norm Jewison, the Canucks’ media relations liaison back in 1982. “The guys looked out the window and just though it was unbelievable.”
Towel Power had struck, and struck hard.
To this day the white towel stands a symbol of the Canucks and their unwavering resolve in the face of stiff odds.
It’s a trademark that’s stood the test of time and reminds us why we are all Canucks.
Behind the Towel