When many in hockey hear the name Roger Neilson, what comes to mind is a white towel draped over a hockey stick.
During the NHL’s Clarence Campbell Conference Finals in 1982, with Vancouver in Chicago playing the Black Hawks in Game 2, Neilson, the Canucks assistant coach, didn’t agree with how the game was being refereed. It was one-sided, in Neilson’s eyes, with the Canucks were being called for too many penalties. He had seen enough. In mock surrender, he placed a towel on a stick and raised it for all to see, with players joining in on the bench.
Neilson, who died in 2003 from cancer at age 69, has been immortalized outside Rogers Arena in Vancouver with a statue of his iconic gesture.
What many don’t know about Neilson is that he was very innovative and used video before anyone in hockey was using video.
“Roger used a lot of video with us and it benefited us, it was a lot of hard work taping games and breaking down your power play and penalty kill and trying to get as much video as you could on your opponents,” Stan Smyl told Canucks.com. “That was Roger, he found ways of doing it.”
Working with video is much easier now, as Tucson Roadrunners Head Coach Jay Varady discussed during his Virtual Hockey Summit presentation, but it’s definitely not an exact art.
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