Premier, Canucks alumni celebrate team’s 50 years

John Horgan took a selfie with Vancouver Canucks great Stan Smyl on Thursday inside the premier’s office.

That it wasn’t the other way around showed the power of sporting heroes.

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Horgan presented several gathered Canucks alumni with a framed proclamation, signed by the Queen, honouring the club’s 50th anniversary in the National Hockey League.

“I’ve been a Canucks fan from Day 1,” said Horgan. “Abandoning the [Toronto] Maple Leafs wasn’t hard to do.”

Two of the Canucks in attendance, 53-year-old former defenceman Jyrki Lumme and 36-year-old former forward Chris Higgins, played in the two biggest moments in team history.

Both ended bitterly in Game 7 losses in the Stanley Cup finals. For Lumme, it was in 1994 and for Higgins in 2011.

“Coming close is not good enough,” said Lumme. “We just need the Stanley Cup here.”

Those losses haven’t diminished the passion that fans from Duncan to Dawson Creek and Sooke to Salmo have for the club, however.

“You see it in how excited people get when the Canucks alumni stage charity games in smaller communities around B.C.,” said Lumme, a native of Finland.

“It makes us feel good.”

Having the Canucks as the lone NHL team in the province makes for a different dynamic than in Alberta, where loyalties are divided between the Edmonton Oilers and Calgary Flames.

“We really notice that when the Canucks alumni do their reach-out work — it’s not just Vancouver,” said Higgins, who grew up in Smithtown, New York, with his choice of Buffalo Sabres, New York Rangers and New York Islanders to root for.

“It’s the whole province of B.C. which follows the Canucks.”

Higgins is now in player development with the Canucks and bullish on what many consider a young, rising team. “There’s a real buzz about the team again,” he said.

The aim for the season is clear: “The goal is to make the playoffs,” said Smyl, who invited Horgan to be at the first home game of the playoffs.

The premier smiled and said he would like nothing more.

cdheensaw@timescolonist.com

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