VANCOUVER, B.C. -- The Vancouver Canucks celebrated what has been the greatest regular season in franchise history when they were presented with the Presidents’ Trophy prior to the opening faceoff of Thursday's night's home finale against Minnesota.
NHL Senior Vice President of Hockey Operations Kris King was on hand to present the trophy, given to the regular-season champion. Canucks captain Henrik Sedin, along with alternate captain Manny Malhotra, stood for pictures with King and the trophy -- but were careful not to touch it.
Malhotra, who is out for the remainder of the season with an eye injury, received a loud cheer from the Rogers Arena crowd.
The Canucks clinched the League’s best record with a 3-1 win over the L.A. Kings on March 31. Vancouver heads into the playoffs with franchise records for victories (52), points (113) and road wins (26).
The Canucks enter the final days of the season leading the League in fewest goals allowed (178) and power-play percentage (24.1), and his tied for second in penalty-killing (85.8) and goals for (250).
No club in the NHL’s expansion era (since 1967-68) has finished first in all four categories.
Prior to the puck drop between the Wild and Canucks the team also honored former coach Roger Neilson by unveiling a permanent statue of the coach on the North Plaza outside of Rogers Arena.
Neilson coached the Canucks from March 1982 to January 1984, leading Vancouver to 51-61-21 record and the franchise's first trip to the Stanley Cup Final in 1982.
The statue of Neilson, which stands 136.5 inches tall and weighs 800 pounds, was sculpted by local artist Norm Williams.
“To be able to honor Roger in this way, to usher us into the playoffs and to create a permanent reminder of how important this time frame and how important (the 1982) team is, is nothing but an honor,” General Manager Mike Gillis said. “The white towel, waved by Roger, is representative of a united front, and a tradition that is unique to Canucks fans.”
Neilson was initially an assistant with the Canucks, but took over as coach when then-coach Harry Neale was suspended for taking part in an altercation with fans in Quebec. Neilson led the Canucks to a 7-0-0 record on an interim basis and was given the job permanently afterward.
The Toronto native led the Canucks all the way to the Stanley Cup Final in ’82 before they were swept by the New York Islanders.
It was during the ’82 playoffs where Neilson famously put a towel on a stick, along with some of his players, in protest of a penalty call in Chicago. The incident sparked a tradition, which still lives today as fans in Vancouver, and many other cities, wave white towels during the playoffs.