May 24, 2017

Stanley Cup Heroes: Greg Adams! Greg Adams! Greg Adams!

Greg "Gus" Adams certainly knew how to make a great first impression.

In the summer of 1987 the Canucks made a big trade which promised great things for the future. The Canucks traded talented center Patrik Sundstrom to the New Jersey Devils for a young goaltending phenom named Kirk McLean, and a lanky, streaky scorer from Nelson, BC named Greg Adams.

Hindsight obviously suggests the Canucks did quite well on that trade. Initially Canucks fans had to be a bit patient with McLean, a wait well worth it. But Adams was the talk of the town after just one game.

That's because in Adams very first game with the team he scored no less than 4 goals in an 8-2 season opening white-washing of the St. Louis Blues. Adams had tied the modern day NHL record for most goals scored on a season's opening night.

Opening night heroics were not new to Adams. In 1985 with New Jersey he set a NHL record (since equaled) with 5 assists on night number 1. Not bad for an undrafted free agent from the University of Northern Arizona, of all places.

For all the early season fireworks Adams was known for, he never really emerged as the dominant scoring hero Canucks fans longed for. Injuries played a role in that, but essentially Adams was a streaky shooter who topped out at 36 goals and 77 points as career highs.

Adams, who forever became known by his nickname "Gus" when the Canucks acquired another player named Greg Adams, was in many ways a puzzling player. He was primarily a finesse player, though his skill set was largely unremarkable. He wasn't exactly a fast skater, though he had exceptional balance. He was primarily a shooter rather than a playmaker and an average defensive player at best. Physically he had no bulk and shied away from physical battles at times. But his long reach combined with his lanky body and great balance on skates allowed him to protect the puck expertly.

Yet despite the seemingly poor endorsement, Adams played nearly 1100 games in the National Hockey League. He totaled an impressive 355 goals in his long career, plus another 20 in the playoffs.

But all Canucks fans know that no goal was bigger than his goal against the Toronto Maple Leafs in the 1994 Western Conference clinching game.

Adams backhanded a rebound past sprawling goaltender Felix Potvin in the second overtime of game 5, clinching the series and sending the Canucks to the Stanley Cup finals for the second time in franchise history.

Adams then repeated the heroics in game one of the finals, scoring the overtime goal to give the Canucks the win in game one over the New York Rangers, a game in which the Canucks were greatly outplayed.

Adams and the Canucks came within a goal post of forcing overtime in game 7 of the Finals, but eventually bowed to the Rangers. That playoff run will forever be special for that team of Canucks.

Adams, who was often a regular left winger on Pavel Bure's line, vividly remembers those two goals in particular. He once called the goal against the Leafs as "the biggest one I ever scored."

In 1995 the Canucks traded Adams to Dallas, removing one of the first core pieces of that precious 1994 team. He was increasingly missing games due to injury, salaries were escalating and his production was seemingly waning. The Canucks landed Rusty Courtnall in that swap. Still, it was sad to see Adams go.

Adams would spend three seasons in Dallas before prolonging his career with stops in Phoenix and Florida. He would play a season in Frankfurt as well before hanging up the skates and returning to BC.

All in all, Gus Adams remains a memorable figure in 1990s Canucks hockey memories.

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