Most fans watched in awe as their favorite players danced across the ice during warm-up, but those lucky enough to be seated close to the Visions Lounge saw something extra special.
Prior to the game 20 of the founding members of the Jake Milford Canucks Charity Invitational Golf Tournament were honored for their years of hard work and dedication. A who's who of Canucks alumni gathered to celebrate the 25th anniversary of the annual golf tournament and they were honored with commemorative Vancouver Canucks leather jackets.
There weren't too many faces missing from the old hockey fraternity, everyone from original directors Norm Jewison and John Whitman to committee members Dave Cannon and Bernie Pascal were in attendance as the original founders came together to reflect on 25 years of success and to commemorate their dear friend Jake Milford.
A member of the Hockey Hall of Fame, Milford was the fourth general manager in Canucks history, he guided the team from 1977-78 to 1981-82 and led them to a Stanley Cup finals appearance in his final year on the job. He was promoted to Senior Vice-President following that season, a position he held until his tragic passing in late 1984.
Milford left a lasting impression with everyone he met and it was in his honor that "The Jake" began. For the past 25 years the golf tournament has brought together Canucks alumni, players, coaches, management, longtime supporters, sponsors and donors and on the Silver Jubilee celebration of the first round of golf, which took place on September 14, 1983, original chairman Norm Jewison couldn't be prouder.
"It really gives me a warm, fuzzy feeling," said Jewison, who spent 30 years in the Canucks organization before retiring a year ago. "To see so many of the people back year after year, charter members who have been here for all 25 events, that demonstrates commitment to me and it's very gratifying."
Today the event, which takes place on September 25 at the Northview Golf Club in Surrey, is one of the premiere golf tournaments around. It not only gives both past and present players the chance to connect, but it also raises money for the Canadian Cancer Society's Camp Goodtimes.
The Jake has raised over $800,000 since it first teed off, much of that money is given back to the community through grants and scholarships and into Camp Goodtimes, but is also helps keeps the Canucks alumni association up and running.
"The funds that have been raised have really been the lifeblood of our Canuck alumni, which is what we would like to call the best in the National Hockey League. There are 100 card carrying members of the Canucks alumni here in Vancouver, one of the largest in the National Hockey League and the Milford tournament keeps those people going in a lot of ways through their fundraising efforts."
Jim Brown, one of the original director of the committee, chummed with old friends during Tuesday's event, but he also took time to reflect on who wasn't there in his dear old friend Jake Milford.
"I knew Jake quite well, he was a true and dear friend," said Brown. "Unfortunately he passed away shortly after we got the tournament going, but he was around for the first banquet.
"He was a very big part of the tournament, he was a great guy so you really hate to have someone like that pass away. Unfortunately he ended up with cancer and that's why we've been so involved with Camp Goodtimes."
A slideshow of pictures ran on the TVs throughout the get-together, everyone took a moment to reflect on all the good times they've had since the tournament first kicked off, but while Brown couldn't peg down one treasured moment from The Jake in particular, Jewison's excitement level went through the roof when he was questioned on his favorite memory.
"My favorite memory is the year that we won it," said Jewison, beaming with pride. "Back in 1987 I was with an old Canuck named Barry Peterson who came here from Boston, and we won it that year and I don't think I've ever been close since. It really is a true golf tournament and it really is special to win this tournament and get your name on the plaque, the prizes are secondary to the bragging rights. That was by far my favorite year."
It was a classy gesture to recognize the outstanding individuals who have been involved with The Jake since the beginning, one that the alumni will remember for quite some time.
The only thing left to do now is prepare for Thursday's tournament, both Brown and Jewison said they've been hitting the links and they feel good going in.
Jewison isn't sure who he'll be golfing with, but Brown is with Canucks new Assistant General Manager and VP of Hockey Operations Laurence Gilman, who Brown said "better bring his best game with him."
You can take the player away from hockey, but clearly you can't take the competitive hockey spirit out of the player.