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For whom the siren screams

by Derek Jory / Vancouver Canucks
When Pete Wideski and Barrie Grant were in their early 20s back in 1982, they were in search of one thing: a good time.

Devoted hockey fans who made the trip from Ladner to Vancouver as often as possible to watch the Canucks play, Wideski, a fisherman, and Grant, an oilman, one day decided it was time to become those guys.

You know the guys I’m talking about. The ones so into the game they hoot and holler regardless of the score and have some kind of extreme noisemaker with them that keeps things interesting.

In this instance it was a Second World War Chema siren and its alarming sound jolted a whack of energy into the Pacific Coliseum and led the Canucks to a 6-3 win over the visiting Boston Bruins the first time Wideski and Grant tested it out.

The stirring siren, which a buddy of theirs had picked up at a swap meet, also caused a face-to-face meeting with then Canucks owner Arthur Griffiths.

“When we were cranking it at the game security showed up and we thought we were getting kicked out,” recalled Wideski. “Instead we met Arthur and he gave us tickets for that season and for the next couple years to keep coming to the games with the siren.”

The pair continued going to games and blaring the siren before puck drop and after Vancouver goals and that became such tradition that Wideski and Grant, and the siren of course, even traveled with the Canucks from time to time.

One of Wideski’s most cherished siren memories, and there are many, involves Vancouver’s first Stanley Cup journey in ’82. Wideski and Grant made the trip to Calgary with Vancouver for Game 3 of the Smythe Division Semifinal.

The Canucks won 3-1 to sweep the series 3-0, but things got out of hand late in the contest.

“In the last 10 seconds we were getting completely mobbed, so we climbed over the glass and stayed on the Canucks bench,” chuckled Wideski.

“Then after the teams were done shaking hands, we ran out onto centre ice and we cranked that thing.

“I’m not kidding, you wouldn’t have believed it, there were thousands of beer cups flying down on us. It was just like it was snowing.”

From that playoff drive on, the siren took on a life of its own.

Wideski can’t put his finger on what it is about the big magestic hunk of metal that people love so much, but it’s so enriched with Canucks history now that it’s simply part of the team.

That’s one of the main reasons the siren, which is a work of art up close with chipped yellow paint, Canucks stickers old and new and legendary wear and tear, was brought out of retirement for Vancouver’s current playoff run.

For anyone who attended Game 2 against the Chicago Blackhawks, or caught the game on TV, the siren that filled the arena prior to the start of the game was not an old school emergency alarm. It was the siren in all its glory, manned by Wideski and Grant once again.

“Just like back when we used to do it, the noise got everyone fired up. I know it was crazy there anyways, but just the buzz it created was unreal. Then the Canucks came out and scored two goals right away. They were really feeding off the crowd.”

The Canucks dropped Game 2 and are currently tied with the Blackhawks at two games apiece with Game 5 set for Saturday night in Vancouver.

The siren will be front and centre to get the Canucks off on the right foot.

“It’s great that it’s back again,” said Wideski, adding that the last time the siren was used at GM Place was in 2003 when Vancouver beat St. Louis in the Western Conference Quarter-Final.

“It signifies Canucks hockey and excitement and everybody remembers the siren once they hear it.”

When the post-season is done, Wideski will donate the siren to the Canucks. Once the team’s museum is complete, the siren will be featured as one of Vancouver’s prized treasures.

The siren opened a lot of doors for Wideski as he made friends with many Vancouver players over the years and as a former goaltender, would even practice with the team now and then.

Out of everyone he’s met, Arthur Griffiths remains No.1 in his books and that’s a position he’s not about to lose.

“I think back to Arthur a lot and how he saw us when we were being young and stupid. He saw what that siren did to the fans and it just caused so much excitement and stuff over the years that it’s just always been major happy thoughts.”

The exhilaration created by the siren did wonders in helping the Canucks fight their way to the Stanley Cup finals in 1982 and Wideski is hoping the same effect will be had on this year’s team.

“It’s going to be tough, the Blackhawks are a good team, but we’ve got the siren on our side.”

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