In its 125 years, Vancouver has produced topnotch athletes and witnessed more than its share of remarkable sporting achievements. The following is a list of the 10 greatest moments in the history of Vancouver sports, in ascending order.
In 1954, Pat Fletcher, a little-known 38-year-old golf pro from Saskatoon, rose to the occasion to win the 1954 Canadian Open at the Point Grey Golf and Country Club. At the time, Fletcher was the first Canadian in 40 years to win this country’s most prestigious golf tournament. Now, some 57 years later, as Vancouver prepares to play host to the RBC Canadian Open in July at the Shaughnessy Golf and Country Club, Fletcher remains the last native son to get his name on the trophy that goes to the winner of our national championship.
When Pat Quinn stepped to the podium at the Montreal Forum on June 11, 1988, and used the Vancouver Canucks’ second overall selection in the NHL entry draft to take Medicine Hat Tigers forward Trevor Linden, he changed the course of this city’s sports history forever. The Canucks got a player who spent parts of 16 seasons in the city, led the team to the 1994 Stanley Cup final, and had his number 16 retired by the hockey club. Due to his on-ice work ethic and tireless efforts in the community, Linden became the most popular athlete in the city’s history, and it may be another 125 years before someone takes that title from him.
In a city known around the planet for the vast amount of rain that falls on it each year, the skyline changed forever and the sports-spectator experience changed for the better on June 19, 1983. That’s when the revolving doors to B.C. Place Stadium opened for the first time, allowing sports (primarily football and soccer) to be played indoors, taking the elements out of the equation and bringing paying spectators inside a climate-controlled facility.
Long before the Vancouver Giants played host to and won the 2007 Memorial Cup at Pacific Coliseum on the PNE grounds, the New Westminster Bruins laid claim to junior hockey’s biggest prize before hometown fans there in 1977. With local legend Ernie “Punch” McLean behind the bench and led by the likes of Barry Beck and Stan Smyl, the Bruins beat Ottawa 6-5 in the championship final. It was the first of back-to-back Memorial Cup championships and part of a four-year run in which the Bruins represented the Western Hockey League in the tournament.
For a time, the fastest man in the world hailed from Vancouver. As a 20-year-old, Percy Williams struck gold in both the 100- and the 200-metre races at the 1928 Olympics in Amsterdam. He was also part of Canada’s 4 x 100-metre relay team, which was disqualified in the final. Williams’s stay at the top of the sprinting world didn’t last long. He suffered a thigh injury in 1930, and by the 1932 Olympics in Los Angeles, he was unable to qualify for the 100-metre final.
In a city that had been starved for a champion, the Vancouver Whitecaps delivered when they laid claim to the North American Soccer League title by winning the 1979 Soccer Bowl. Striker Trevor Whymark scored both goals as the ’Caps edged the Tampa Bay Rowdies 2-1 in New Jersey. Days later, an estimated 100,000 people turned out in and around Robson Square in downtown Vancouver to salute their soccer heroes.
When Lui Passaglia booted the winning field goal with no time left on the clock in the 1994 Grey Cup, it capped the greatest win in the history of the B.C. Lions. A hometown boy scoring the winning points for the hometown team before a sold-out crowd at B.C. Place Stadium, it was the stuff of storybook legend as the Lions edged the Baltimore CFLs (the first American team to compete for the Grey Cup) 26-23.
As John Landy glanced over his left shoulder, Roger Bannister passed him on the right and went on to win a duel between the two best milers in the world at the time. It was the defining moment in what has become known as the Miracle Mile—the one-mile race and enduring memory—of the 1954 British Empire Games at Empire Stadium. A statue of the historical moment stands at the entrance to the Pacific National Exhibition grounds at the northeast corner of Hastings and Renfrew streets.
It must have seemed pretty easy back in 1915. Just 29 years after Vancouver was incorporated, the city won a Stanley Cup. Now, almost a century later, the Vancouver Millionaires remain the last hockey team from these parts to hoist the big silver chalice. In a best-of-five series played at the Denman Arena—at the time, the first artificial-ice surface in Canada and the largest indoor-ice facility in the world—legendary Fred “Cyclone” Taylor led the Millionaires to a three-game sweep of the Ottawa Senators, culminating with a 12-3 victory in the series clincher.
On the biggest stage in sports, Sidney Crosby capped off the 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver by scoring the golden goal in overtime to give Canada a 3-2 victory over the United States. It was an Olympic-record 14th and final gold medal won by this country over an unforgettable two-week span that started with skier Alex Bilodeau becoming the first Canadian ever to win a gold medal on Canadian soil when he finished first in the men’s moguls competition on Cypress Mountain.