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All aboard

by Alfred De Vera / Vancouver Canucks
Over the years, the NHL has seen some great and memorable lines.

Who could forget the Stastny Brothers line in Quebec where brothers Peter, Anton, and Marion led the Nordiques in scoring for much of the 1980s, the Legion of Doom line in Philadelphia where Lindros, LeClair, and Renberg terrorized opponents throughout the 1990s with their physical play, and of course the Sky Line in Pittsburgh where the trio of Lemieux, Jagr, and Stevens seemingly scored at will.

The visiting Sabres had one of the most memorable lines in NHL history with the French Connection line consisting of Rick Martin, Rene Robert, and Gilbert Perrault. The trio went on to combine for 1,681 points in 1,536 games from 1972-79 and are immortalized with a statue outside the First Niagara Center.

In Vancouver, Henrik and Daniel Sedin have been a part of some memorable lines throughout their careers including the Mattress line where the twins played alongside Jason King (get it?). However, there is one line in Canucks history that stands out from the rest: the West Coast Express.

Named after the commuter train that serves the lower mainland, the West Coast Express line was looked upon to deliver every night with their combination of size, skill, and hockey sense. Markus Naslund brought flash and an elite goal scoring ability; power forward Todd Bertuzzi brought a rare combination of a scoring touch combined with an intimidating presence; and Brendan Morrison brought patience and a defensive mindset. Together, the trio formed one of the best lines in hockey for several seasons in the 2000s and brought new excitement to Vancouver.

Formed in 2002, the trio first played on a regular line on January 9 versus the Detroit Red Wings. In that game, all three ‘Express’ members recorded two points as Bertuzzi and Naslund both had a goal and an assist while Morrison notched two assists. The following game on January 12 versus Carolina, all three linemates again notched two points each to lead the Canucks to a 7-1 rout of the Hurricanes. By the end of the 2001.02 season, all three players had set career-highs respectively in scoring.

The West Coast Express line continued their success the following season with all three players again setting new-career highs in a number of statistical categories. Morrison notched career-highs in goals (25), assists (46) and points (71). Bertuzzi also recorded career-highs in goals (46), assists (51) and points (97) and was named a first-team All-Star. Naslund finished the season with one of the best statistical seasons in Canucks history, collecting career-highs in goals (48), assists (56) and points (104). He was also named a first-team All-Star and awarded the 2003 Lester B. Pearson Award as the League’s most outstanding player as voted by the NHL Players Association.

The West Coast Express line continued to dominate oppositions in subsequent seasons making Rogers Arena one of the most feared buildings for opponents to play in. Largely through the success of this line and the team during this era, Rogers Arena began a consecutive sellout streak in 2002 that spanned 474 games over 11 seasons. The play of these three Canuck greats also influenced a number of players that today have become household names including rookie Jake Virtanen.

But all told, the West Coast Express will always be remembered for how they brought fans to their feet both in Rogers Arena or at home watching on TV, the second they came over the boards.

The Vancouver Canucks will celebrate the West Coast Express line of Markus Naslund, Todd Bertuzzi and Brendan Morrison on December 7th, as part of the Rogers Arena #20in20 celebrations. A limited number of great seats are still available for what is expected to be a sell-out. Visit canucks.com/tickets for more information.

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