VANCOUVER (NEWS 1130) – It’s a day that will live forever in Canucks infamy.
It was 50 years ago today the team lost out on a key decision: who would get the first pick in the 1970 Amateur Draft, Vancouver or its NHL expansion mates the Buffalo Sabres.
”It actually happened in the Grand Salon of the Queen Elizabeth Hotel in Montreal,” remembers former CKWX Sports Director “Dr. Sport” Greg Douglas, who was working in the Canucks front office at the time as the team’s original public relations director.
“Each expansion franchise was going to be allotted numbers to pick the number one draft pick from across Canada.”
The Canucks had been assigned numbers one through 10 on a big carnival-style roulette wheel while Buffalo got 11 through 20.
Here’s Clarence Campbell explaining the rules of the draft lottery to Bud Poile and Punch Imlach. pic.twitter.com/ZQFgSUD6Kq
— Hockey50Yearsago (@hockey50years) June 9, 2020
“So, as you can imagine, it was pretty intense when NHL President Clarence Campbell spun the wheel and a hush went over the room,” Douglas explains. “Then he announced it. Mr. Campbell said, ‘The number is 1. Vancouver gets first pick.'”
Canucks General Manager Bud Poile leapt to his feet and a huge celebration broke out among the team’s scouts. They were all but sure they would be able to pick the top prospect that year, Gilbert Perreault of the Montreal Jr. Canadiens. But it was not to be.
“All of a sudden, from the back of the room, Punch Imlach, who was the general manager of the Sabres at the time, said, ‘Mr. Campbell, that is not a 1, it’s an 11. The digits are on top of one another.’ And I’ll be damned if he wasn’t right,” Douglas admits.
Buffalo would go on to draft Perreault, a future Hall of Famer who would spend his entire 17-year career in a Sabres uniform, while Vancouver would select journeyman blueliner Dale Tallon, whom they would trade away three years later.
“It was kind of sad in a way because [Tallon] was a real find and a gem. But coming out to Vancouver under those circumstances changed things around a lot because everybody had wanted Perreault,” Douglas says. “[Tallon] was heralded as the top defenseman in the country and, for some reason, our coaching staff at the time had him playing up in the wing and then back in defense and then back in the wing. Poor kid didn’t know where he was supposed to fit in.”
Tallon would complete his decade-long career in Chicago and Pittsburgh. As an executive, he would later have a hand in helping build the Blackhawks team that won the Stanley Cup in 2010.
Dale Tallon, 1970. Canucks first draft pick, #2 overall.
As a rookie, he scored 14 goals and led the Canucks with 42 assists. His 17 goals in '71–72 was a career high.
— Vintage Canucks (@VintageCanucks) December 20, 2019
Douglas says Canucks fans would be forgiven for thinking the team was cursed.
“That was [their] first-ever draft and nothing seems to have gone totally their way in the past 50 years!”