Jim Robson, one of the greatest play-by-play voices in hockey history, had a signature line in his broadcasts. It wasn’t the same every time, but he always sent out a special hello “to all hospital patients and shut-ins, the pensioners and the blind, those fans who can’t get out to hockey games.”
Right now, of course, no fans can get out to hockey games. There are no hockey games to get out to. We all need that special hello from Robson.
Taking inspiration from Robson, here are the 10 best Canucks play-by-play calls of all time to help you get through this time of social distancing and self-quarantining with no hockey. Appropriately, Robson himself shows up a few times.
Honourable mention: “Let’s it go, he scores!”
Sometimes the best call is no call at all. Sometimes you have to let the moment speak for itself.
Consider the 2009 World Juniors when Pierre McGuire ruined a great moment and a fantastic goal call from Gord Miller.
Canada was down 5-4 in the final minute of their semi-final game against Russia. All hope seemed loss as the puck was stuck in a board battle with just seconds left to play. Somehow, the puck came out of the scrum and John Tavares shoveled the puck towards the goal, where it was blocked. That’s when Jordan Eberle found the loose puck, cut to his backhand and scored the tying goal with six seconds left.
Miller cut loose with a superb goal call, adding grit to his voice as he roared, “Eberle scores! Tie game! Can you believe it?”
“I can!” came McGuire’s entirely unnecessary response to Miller’s rhetorical question. As the fans cheered and the Canadian players celebrated, McGuire started breaking down the play, drowning out the moment with minutiae.
Compare that to how John Shorthouse and John Garrett treated Daniel Sedin’s overtime game-winning goal in the Sedins’ final home game. At the six second mark of the above video, Shorthouse excitedly shouts, “He scores!” and then he and Garrett don’t say a single word for over two-and-a-half minutes.
It was exactly what the moment needed, letting the sights and sounds of the crowd and of the Canucks mobbing the Sedins do all the talking.
1 | “Henrik! From Daniel! Canucks win in four overtimes!”
Sometimes a purely factual goal call is the best, particularly when the facts of the moment already have some serious heft.
This goal came during the 2007 playoffs and is one of the longest games in NHL history, lasting two hours, 18 minutes, and six seconds before Henrik Sedin ended it. It’s definitely the longest game in Canucks history, as Marty Turco and Roberto Luongo went save-for-save in the opening game of the playoff series between the Canucks and Dallas Stars.
It was a preview of what was to come: an incredible goaltending battle that lasted all seven games, including two more games that went to overtime. Incredibly, Turco had three shutouts in the series, as well as going three full overtime periods without allowing a goal, but still lost the series to Luongo and the Canucks.
John Shorthouse nailed the call of the game-winning goal in Game 1, letting his excitement carry the moment rather than any fancy verbiage.
As the Sedins cycled around the offensive zone — keeping in mind this is prior to their dominance in the years to come — Shorthouse let the excitement build in his voice, ramping up at the moment Daniel Sedin sent a centring pass to his brother in front for the goal. Then Shorthouse punctuated it perfectly.
“Henrik! From Daniel! Canucks win in four overtimes!”
Shorthouse’s call of the goal has shown up frequently in montages ever since.
“The Sedins on that shift looked like they were possessed!” added Tom Larscheid. I’m betting Alain Vigneault didn’t laugh at that description, unlike when Kyle Wellwood was described as playing like “a man possessed.”
Long-time Bulies will also recognize this as the game from which “Pass it to Bulis” originated, but that’s a story for another time.
2 | “GREG ADAMS! GREG ADAMS!”
Sometimes you don’t need to describe anything at all for an iconic call. All you need is a great moment and a name.
It doesn’t even have to be a unique name. After all, there were two Gregs Adams.
This goal was, of course, the overtime game-winner that sent the Canucks to the 1994 Stanley Cup Final, eliminating the Toronto Maple Leafs. That’s a big moment with plenty of emotional weight. Somehow the simplicity of just repeating the goal scorer’s name made it even more momentous.
“Long shot, Potvin had trouble with it! Adams shots, scores! GREG ADAMS! GREG ADAMS! Adams gets the winner! 14 seconds into the second overtime. The Vancouver Canucks are going to the Stanley Cup Final!”
It’s that last bit that Shorthouse appreciated so much, describing it as perfect: the sheer wonder and disbelief in Robson’s voice as he said, “The Vancouver Canucks are going to the Stanley Cup Final!”
Robson himself isn’t the biggest fan of his goal call — “I couldn’t think of anything else to say, I said his name three times, that wasn’t necessary” — but he was always a bit of a perfectionist.
“I’m not proud of those calls,” said Robson in 2018. “At the end of a broadcast, you think of what you could have said, could have done.”
I’ll go with Shorthouse’s opinion: the call was perfect.
3 | “Brendan Morrison! A silencer!”
Before the four-overtime game in 2007, the longest game in Canucks history was Game 6 of the opening round of the 2004 playoffs against the Calgary Flames. It went three overtimes, lasting one hour, 42 minutes, and 28 seconds and ended in an identical 5-4 score.
This was a particularly wild game: the Canucks went up 4-0 through the first half of the game, but the Flames clawed their way back with four unanswered goals. It seemed like the Flames had all the momentum heading into overtime, but Alex Auld and the Canucks stalled the Flames through two overtimes until Brendan Morrison came through in the clutch.
Chris Cuthbert nailed the call, with an emotional vocal break on the word, “Scores!” as Morrison tucked the puck around Miikka Kiprusoff. His emphatic delivery following the goal is what sells it.
“Brendan Morrison! A silencer! And we will have game seven!”
The denouement following this classic climax is a little unfortunate — the Flames won Game 7 to send the Canucks home — but this was still a fantastic goal call.
4 | “They’ve tied the game!”
Most great goal calls come in the playoffs, as that’s where a lot of the most excitement and meaningful moments occur. Occasionally you get a great moment during the regular season that requires a great goal call, like this one from a game against the Toronto Maple Leafs on March 6, 2000.
Shorthouse’s goal call is soaked with pure disbelief, which requires some context to understand.
The Leafs were up 5-1 in the third period. Darcy Tucker had scored two shorthanded goals to truly demoralize the Canucks fans in attendance, who surely thought the game was over.
Five minutes into the third period, however, Ed Jovanovski scored on the power play to make it 5-2. Still, the Canucks were down by three with just seven minutes remaining. Then Alexander Mogilny scored at 13:16 to make it 5-3. Rookie Harold Druken added another at 17:48 to make it 5-4.
In the final minute of the third period, however, it seemed impossible that the Canucks could complete the comeback. Mogilny was in the box for interference, so the Canucks were shorthanded. It seemed like there was no way for the Canucks to score.
Then Markus Naslund made a way.
Ed Jovanovski sent a great pass ahead to Naslund and he undressed Glenn Healy with a deke to the backhand for the tying goal. If Shorthouse sounds incredulous, it’s for good reason: four unanswered goals in less than 15 minutes.
“Naslund! Into the zone! Dekes! Scores! They’ve tied the game!”
To top it off, the goal came at 19:19 for number 19.
Just ignore that Mats Sundin went on to score the winner for the Leafs in overtime, ruining the comeback. It’s still a classic call.
5 | “They’re still alive!”
As mentioned above, Game 7 against the Flames in 2004 didn’t end well for the Canucks, but it still gave us an iconic moment in Canucks history and a classic goal call from Chris Cuthbert.
The Canucks were down by one with less than a minute to go in the third period, but they were on the power play and had the goaltender pulled, giving them a six-on-four. At least, they did until Ed Jovanovski took an undisciplined penalty in front of the Flames goal, repeatedly crosschecking Rhett Warrener, including one that caught the Flames defenceman in the neck.
That eventually led to the indelible image of Jovanovski going absolutely nuts in the penalty box as he watched what ensued.
Cuthbert’s call is a play-by-play master class. Notice all the details he casually dropped into his call, while simultaneously building the excitement of the moment.
“Debris on the ice and 15 seconds left. Iginla has the stick knocked out of his hand and he falls at centre. Naslund dashing in. 10 seconds left! Markus Naslund to the net. Stopped... scores! Scores! Matt Cooke cashes in! 5.7 seconds left! And they’re still alive!”
Cuthbert creates a countdown with the mention of 15, then 10 seconds left, which ramps up the tension of the moment. He takes notice of the debris thrown on the ice by a fan without missing a beat in his call. He adds in the crucial detail of Jarome Iginla getting his stick knocked out of his hand away from the puck. He even gets in a quick, “Stopped!” during the split second between the initial save and Cooke scoring.
6 | “It’s a wonderful day for an exorcism.”
One of the most famous goals in Canucks history has two great goal calls. We’ll start with Jim Hughson’s call on the CBC broadcast.
The situation: the Canucks were in Game 7 against their dreaded rivals, the Chicago Blackhawks, who had knocked the Canucks out of the postseason in each of the two previous seasons.
2011 was supposed to be different. The Canucks were clearly the best team in the NHL heading into the playoffs. They won the Presidents’ Trophy with ten more points than the next best team. They led the league in both goals for and goals against, had the number-one ranked power play, and the second-best penalty kill.
Daniel Sedin led the league in scoring and won the Art Ross. Ryan Kesler scored 41 goals and won the Selke as the league’s best defensive forward. Daniel and Henrik Sedin were first-team All-Stars. This was a team of destiny: how could they get knocked out in the first round by the Blackhawks?
The series started as expected: the top-seeded Canucks won the first three games to take a seemingly-insurmountable 3-0 series lead. Then the wheels came off and the Blackhawks started surmounting.
The Blackhawks demolished the Canucks 7-2 in Game 4, and then did it again in Game 5, shutting out the Canucks 5-0. After a pair of blowout losses, Alain Vigneault shocked Canucks fans by starting Cory Schneider over Luongo in Game 6, but Schneider suffered a leg cramp in the third period and Luongo went in. With a strong performance in relief, Luongo got the call for Game 7.
There was no blowout here. Luongo made 31 saves, allowing just one goal. It was a crucial one, however, a shorthanded, game-tying goal late in the third period by Jonathan Toews to send the game to overtime. Just like that, the unthinkable — the Presidents’ Trophy-winning Canucks giving up a 3-0 series lead in the first round — seemed all too possible.
That’s when Alex Burrows saved the day.
Burrows caught a Chris Campoli clearance attempt, dropped the puck down to his stick, and blasted a slap shot past Corey Crawford for the overtime winner. Cuthbert’s call of the goal is solid, but it’s the unexpected line at the end that sticks to the memory banks.
“For Vancouver, it’s a wonderful day for an exorcism.”
The line is delivered with panache. It’s incongruous — when do you ever hear “wonderful” and “exorcism” in the same sentence? — but it perfectly captures the moment, as Alex Burrows exorcised the Canucks’ playoff demons against Chicago.
7 | “They’ve slayed the dragon!”
Here’s the same goal, but with John Shorthouse’s call from the radio broadcast: “They’ve slayed the dragon!”
Whether you prefer Cuthbert’s “exorcism” line or Shorthouse’s “slayed the dragon” line likely comes down to a matter of preference, but it’s the latter that led to a memorable nickname for Alex Burrows: The Dragon-Slayer.
“The day the Canucks found out who they were playing,” recalled Shorthouse in 2019, “I got an email from my friend in California saying, ‘Time to slay the dragon.’ That was the subject line. I didn’t really think about it, I didn’t plan it as something I would ever say, but it just popped into my head as the puck went in.”
There’s something about the spontaneity of the call that makes it extra special. It wasn’t just a pre-planned line: it was something true to the moment.
8 | “Alex Burrows has done it again!”
This was the moment when every Canucks fan was certain the Canucks would win the Stanley Cup. Just bask in this moment and ignore everything else that happened after.
Alex Burrows opened the scoring in this game before the Bruins replied with two goals in the second period. Thanks to a third period goal from Daniel Sedin (assisted by Burrows), the game went to overtime. There was a lot of nervous energy in the building that exploded just 11 seconds into overtime, as Burrows wasted no time getting his second goal of the game.
There’s something about the sheer disbelief in Cuthbert’s voice that makes this a great call. Just think about the journey Burrows took to get to this goal. He was undrafted, arguably better known in the ball hockey world than the ice hockey world. He spent two full seasons in the ECHL, and then worked his way up from the AHL to the Canucks’ fourth line, then the third, before a gut feeling from Alain Vigneault landed him on the first line with the Sedins. He went from nothing to becoming a crucial part of the best line in the entire NHL and here he was in the Stanley Cup Final, scoring an overtime game-winning goal — not even his best known overtime game-winning goal of those playoffs.
“Alex Burrows has done it again!”
9 | Brown to Bure
This goal gets remembered as “Brown to Bure,” but that’s not exactly what Robson said. Instead, he said, “Brown, a long pass to Pavel Bure. In the clear, right in!”
What makes this an all-time great call, however, is Tom Larscheid going full homer, screaming a nearly incoherent “Yes!” before Jim Robson even said, “He scores!”
To top it off, Robson threw in some wonderful alliteration: “Pavel Bure picked up a perfect pass” and Larscheid added, “This is the greatest moment in Vancouver Canucks history.”
As you might expect, Robson isn’t “particularly proud of the call,” and pointed out that he hesitated to say “scores” because the red light didn’t come on and he wanted to make sure the puck was in.
As for Larscheid, the incoherent “yes” was apparently because he hit his head jumping too high in the booth.
10 | “He’ll play on crutches!”
It was Game 6 of the 1994 Stanley Cup Final and Trevor Linden could barely get off the ice. To add injurious insult to injury, Mark Messier sideswiped Linden away from the puck as he crawled back to the bench.
Cliff Ronning later shared just how banged up Linden was in that series.
“You don't know this, but Trevor Linden had cracked ribs and torn rib cartilage for the last four games of the 1994 Stanley Cup Final," said Ronning. "You can't imagine what it's like to hear your captain, in a room down the hall, screaming at the top of his lungs as they injected the needle into his rib cage. Knowing him, he probably thought we couldn't hear. He would then walk into our dressing room like nothing had happened. That was inspirational.”
Ronning added that he broke his hand during Game 7, “But how do I say I can't play when there's a guy who has played four games with broken ribs and torn cartilage and he's dropping his shoulder into guys to make plays?”
Linden wasn’t going to let anything keep him from playing that Game 7 and Jim Robson perfectly captured that with his call.
“He will play. You know he’ll play! He’ll play on crutches! He will play! And he’ll play at Madison Square Garden on Tuesday night!”
The hyperbole of Linden playing on crutches captured his indomitable spirit and the injured captain scored the Canucks’ only two goals in Game 7, trying to will the Canucks to the Stanley Cup.
He played, as we all knew he would.