VANCOUVER -- Whether it's inside an arena or stadium or outside on the fringes of the facility, I'm always fascinated by how franchises immortalize their great moments and great players. The Sabres certainly did a fine job with the French Connection statue and there are many others around the NHL for fans to see.
One of the most unusual is on the plaza here at Rogers Arena. Take a look:
In bronze is former Canucks coach Roger Neilson, who led his team to the 1982 Stanley Cup final against the New York Islanders after serving as the head coach in Toronto (1977-79), and with the Sabres in 1980-81 after he was an assistant for Scotty Bowman. Neilson, a Hockey Hall of Famer who died in 2003, is best known as "Captain Video" for being the first coach to heavily use videotape as a scouting method in the NHL.
(Neilson went 39-20-21 in his lone season in Buffalo. The Sabres won the Adams Division title and, ironically, swept Vancouver in three straight games in the first round before losing to Minnesota in five games in the second round).
The statue commemorates "Towel Power", Neilson's other great -- and accidental -- contribution to the sporting landscape. During the 1982 Campbell Conference finals at old Chicago Stadium, Neilson and his team were outraged by the officiating and finally "threw in the towel" after a Hawks power play goal. They did it by Neilson putting a white towel on the end of his stick and holding it aloft, a move copied by several other players that led to game misconducts for Neilson and others from a less-than-amused referee Bob Myers.
The iconic moment comes at the 1:10 mark of the video below with late CBC legend Don Whitman on the call along with former Philadelphia Flyers forward Gary Dornhoefer:
When the Canucks returned home, they were surprised at the airport and by their fans in Pacific Coliseum furiously waving white towels in support of the team. Vancouver won the next three games to advance to the final for the first time, where it was swept by the New York Islanders. The tradition was borne and continues today in the NHL and many other sports, especially come playoff time.