Lively Tales About Dead Teams

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June 20, 1983 – Vancouver Whitecaps vs. Seattle Sounders


Vancouver Whitecaps ProgramVancouver Whitecaps vs. Seattle Sounders
June 20, 1983
BC Place
Attendance: 60,342

North American Soccer League Programs
64 pages


Five matches into the 1983 North American Soccer League season, the Vancouver Whitecaps moved out of their long-time home at Empire Stadium into the brand new $126 million BC Place stadium.  The Whitecaps would be one of two anchor tenants, along with the Lions of the Canadian Football League.   Multi-purpose stadia were in vogue at the time and officials hoped the 60,000 seat dome might attract Major League Baseball to Vancouver as well.

The Whitecaps hosted the Seattle Sounders in the first sporting event at BC Place on June 20th, 1983.  The festivities attracted 60,342 fans – on a Monday night, no less – which set an all-time Canadian pro soccer attendance record which stood for nearly three decades.

The star of the match was the Whitecaps’ 22-year old English striker Peter Beardsley.  Beardsley was a peculiarity among NASL players.  A young import who would go on to his greatest success after a few early seasons of seasoning in North America.  The NASL was always heavy on British imports, but most were in their late 20’s to late 30’s with their best days behind them.  Guys like former Manchester City goalkeeper Joe Corrigan of the Seattle Sounders, who Beardsley beat for both Vancouver goals on this night, including the game-winner in the 68th minute.   The ‘Caps won the match 2-1.

In late 1983, BC Place hosted both the NASL’s Soccer Bowl championship match and the CFL’s Grey Cup title game.  Soccer Bowl ’83 attracted more than 53,000 fans despite the fact that the Whitecaps didn’t make the final.  Nevertheless, the move from Empire Stadium to BC Place ushered in rough times for the ‘Caps.  Just one year after the move, the team was on the verge of financial collapse and nearly folded without finishing the 1984 NASL season.  They made it through, but it was a moot point when the entire league folded the following winter.

Peter Beardsley went back to England after the 1983 season and starred for Newcastle United, Liverpool and Everton over the next 15 seasons.  He also earned 59 caps for the English National Team.  Beardsley was inducted into the English Football Hall of Fame in 2007.

On May 12, 2012 the Montreal Impact of Major League Soccer broke the Whitecaps’ 29-year old Canadian attendance record.  60,860 fans turned out at Olympic Stadium to watch the Impact draw David Beckham and the Los Angeles Galaxy.






6-20-1983 Seattle Sounders Roster



Written by AC

July 10th, 2013 at 3:05 am

May 27, 1984 – Vancouver Whitecaps vs. Ajax

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Vancouver Whitecaps vs. AjaxVancouver Whitecaps vs. Ajax (Holland)
May 27, 1984
BC Place
Attendance: 12,509

North American Soccer League Programs
28 pages


A late era international friendly between the original Vancouver Whitecaps of the North American Soccer League (1968-1984) and Holland’s mighty Ajax.   The two clubs met once before in 1981, when the Dutchmen blanked the Whitecaps 4-0 in Amsterdam.

Ajax was wrapping up a brief three-city tour of the NASL that included previous victories over the Toronto Blizzard (1-0) and the Minnesota Strikers (4-2).  The Whitecaps were wrapping up an 11-year run in the NASL.  Both the club and the league were in bad shape by this point.  Just one week following this match, Whitecaps majority owner Bob Carter announced the club was in financial crisis and its existence was day to day.  Vancouver Mayor Michael Harcourt launched a Save The Whitecaps campaign, which fell far short of its targets.  The Whitecaps survived the season thanks only to a seven-figure cash infusion from Carter and his partners in mid-June 1984.

Ajax got the best of it in this match, winning 2-1 thanks to a 75th minute header from substitute Vilco Van Durer.

The Whitecaps, by the way, had a couple of terrific Dutch imports over the years, including long-time Dutch National Team and Ajax defender Rudi Krol and midfielder Frans Thijssen, who was a 1st Team All-NASL performer in 1983 and 1984 and was pictured on the cover of the evening’s match program (above right).



More NASL International Friendlies


Written by AC

June 25th, 2013 at 1:39 am

September 8, 1983 – Vancouver Whitecaps vs. Toronto Blizzard

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Vancouver Whitecaps vs. Toronto Blizzard
NASL 1st Round Playoffs – Game One
September 8, 1983
BC Place
Attendance: 22,013

North American Soccer League Programs
64 pages


Sharp match day program from the opening game of the 1983 North American Soccer League playoffs at B.C. Place in Vancouver.  This First Round series was a best-of-three set between the top-seeded Vancouver Whitecaps and the Toronto Blizzard.

1983 was an exciting year for the Whitecaps.  After nine seasons playing outdoors at Empire Stadium, the ‘Caps moved inside to the newly opened, $126 million BC Place midway through the 1983 season.  Head Coach Johnny Giles put together an outstanding side that was the class of the NASL, posting a league-best 24-6 record.

In late July, with the Whitecaps setting the pace in the NASL, the club purchased the contract of West German midfielder Arno Steffenhagen (featured on the program cover) from the Blizzard.  This playoff series against Toronto would turn out the be the final games of an up and down career for the West German.  As a promising young attacking player with Hertha BSC (Berlin), Steffenhagen was implicated in the 1971 Bundesliga match fixing scandal and banned from German soccer for two seasons. In later years, Steffenhagen admitted accepting the money but denied going through with the plot to throw matches.

Steffenhagen made his first and only international appearance for the West Germany earlier in 1971, but after the scandal the national team showed no further interest.  He went off to South Africa to play in exile for two years.  Steffenhagen returned to Europe in 1973 and helped Hamburg win the European Cup Winner’s Cup in 1977.  But he founded his most prolonged success in North America.  As a member of the NASL’s Chicago Sting from 1978 to 1982, the diminutive attacker scored 58 goals in 97 games and helped the Sting to the 1981 Soccer Bowl championship.

But back to the game.  On paper, the series was a mismatch.  The Whitecaps with the home field advantage and nearly unbeatable at 24-6.  The under-achieving Blizzard barely over .500 at 16-14 and needing to take two out of three to move on to the semi-finals.  The brand new BC Place would be the “neutral site” host of Soccer Bowl ’83 on October 1st, but it seemed like a strong bet that the Whitecaps would be there to play in front of the home crowd.

On this night, things went according to script.  22,013 turned out at BC Place.  The Whitecaps got a late goal from Englishman Alan Taylor for a 1-0 victory and a one-game series lead.  But the Blizzard took game two in Toronto 4-3 four nights later and then returned to Vancouver on September 15th to shock the Whitecaps in the rubber match, 1-0.   The Whitecaps were done.  The Blizzard returned to B.C. Place two weeks later for Soccer Bowl ’83, where they lost 1-0 to the Tulsa Roughnecks.

This series proved to be the end of Arno Steffenhagen’s career.  I’m not sure if he retired, or simply couldn’t find a job as a 35-year old midfielder in 1984.  But the NASL contracted from 12 teams to just 9 during the winter of 1983/1984, so quite a few players were squeezed out of the league as a result.

The Whitecaps ran into severe financial difficulties in 1984, which proved to be the eleventh and final season for the club.  The rest of the NASL folded shortly thereafter in early 1985.

The Whitecaps name was revived in 2011 as the identity for a popular Major League Soccer expansion club.



Vancouver Whitecaps Home Page


Written by AC

November 23rd, 2012 at 3:10 pm


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