July 13, 2013

1994 Vancouver Canucks: Gino, Anton And The Forgotten Few

I loved Gino Odjick. All Canucks fans did and still do. So it hurt us when the big Algonquin Assassin sat in the press box rather than on the bench and ice for much of the 1994 playoffs.

The usually quiet Vancouver faithful loved to boisterously repeat chants of "Gino! Gino! Gino!" whenever Odjick hit the ice, or, more often than not, whenever Odjick hit a member of the other team.

His job was to protect his best buddy Pavel Bure and the rest of the Canucks. He did the job well.
"Having a guy like Gino around really makes all of us play bigger and tougher. We aren't afraid of initiating battles, because we known Gino is with us. There is a noticeable difference in team mentality since Gino's arrival," Cliff Ronning told the Vancouver Province.

But such one dimensional players are rarely used in the playoffs. Gino lost his job on the ice that spring to a younger, bigger tough guy named Shawn Antoski. “Anton” may be long forgotten by Canucks fans now, but I remember being both mad at him and enthralled by him at the same time.

I was mad at him because he took Gino’s job and I really wanted Gino to be part of this magical narrative. But I was enthralled by him because even though he was still a diamond in the rough, he was clearly the better player.

Unlike the clumsy Odjick, Antoski was a wonderful skater. He had a powerful stride and great speed on the forecheck, which made launching his oversized body into nervous defensemen a salivating thought. As much as I did not want to admit it at the time, Gino could not strike this fear into opposing teams. Shawn Antoski was the perfect choice on the 4th line.

Young center John McIntyre and wily Calgary veteran Tim Hunter also patrolled the Canucks 4th line. They did not play much but they were effective. They rarely hurt their team. They allowed the coach the luxury to rest his top lines periodically while they would go out and soften the other team’s defense.

Still, I would have loved to see big Gino skating around the ice with the Stanley Cup over his head. No one would have ever forgotten that.

They Were There Too?

If there was one member of the 1994 Vancouver Canucks I always felt bad for it was Kay Whitmore. He was the back-up goalie who never saw a minute of action in the entire post-season run. Kirk McLean played so well that Whitmore’s only job was to stay late in practice, open and close the bench door during games, and be a great teammate.

Hey at least Whitmore dressed for the games and was on the bench. Two young defensemen were sat down late in the season and never dressed for a single playoff game.

Adrien Plavsic sat out the final 12 games of the regular season and the entire playoffs. Jiri Slegr played 78 games in the regular season. Zero in the playoffs. They both slid down the depth chart with the late season acquisitions of Jeff Brown, Bret Hedican and Brian Glynn.

The surprisingly mobile Glynn probably played the best hockey of his career in the spring of 1994. He only got into the line-up starting in round two after veteran Dana Murzyn went down with an injury. Glynn, who hit hard and impressed with solid play, stayed in the line-up even when the slow-footed Murzyn, an alternate captain of the team that year, was cleared to play.

Jimmy Carson was part of the ’94 Canucks. His career was sinking fast at this stage of his career. Pat Quinn, who coach Carson as a high scoring rookie in Los Angeles, brought him in mid-season hoping to rekindle the old fire. It never worked, though I’m not sure it ever had a chance to.

Joltin’ Joe Charbonneau was the other extra forward on the Canucks roster that spring. The roller hockey star even chipped in with one goal in three games against Calgary.

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