‘I was a little apprehensive because I thought it would probably peter out in a year or two. And here they still are. The great energy adds something. It’s contagious.’ — Tom Larscheid on lending his name to The Larscheiders fan group

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There’s still that trademark crisp cackle of enthusiasm punctuated by laughter.

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There’s still an encyclopedia-like knowledge and appreciation of everything Vancouver Canucks.

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Tom Larscheid left the broadcast booth at age 70 and, now at 84, his incredible zest for life is only hampered by knees that ache from beatings as a collegiate standout and undersized B.C. Lions running back.

He has shot his age on the golf course since he was 74 and did it on five occasions last year. He even carded a 78.

“It might end this year, I might not be able to do it,” he warned of X-ray exams Monday. “I’ve had so many surgeries from my football days, and the back bothers me a bit, but I’m plugging along. Injections the last few years kept me from having knee replacements.”

Keeping Larscheid off the golf course seems unthinkable.

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“It is what it is,” Larscheid said in borrowing Todd Bertuzzi’s favourite response to any query. “These things start to creep in.”

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Tom Larscheid, left, and John Shorthouse became an educating and highly entertaining duo in the booth. Photo by Stuart Davis /Vancouver Sun

Larscheid’s presence and passion in the booth, arena corridors and any gathering were infectious. A rabid fan base of ultimate local loyalists, who occupy those third-level seats, sought to acknowledge his contributions to make the game entertaining, and above all, a fun and memorable night at Rogers Arena.

They wanted to be known as The Larscheiders. 

They became loud-and-proud ambassadors of taking the fan experience to another level of support and respect. They set a standard for the decibel level to be matched when the Canucks open their Stanley Cup playoffs opening-round series against the Nashville Predators.

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Meeting of the minds lit fan fuse

However, they first had to get Larscheid to lend his legendary name to the fan game. A meeting at a White Spot location in Oakridge Mall seven years ago sealed the deal.

“I was a little apprehensive and leery because I thought it was something that would probably peter out in a year or two,” admitted Larscheid. “They loved the enthusiasm I brought to the broadcast, and the passion in talking Canucks hockey really resonated with them.

“I was quite taken aback by it. A wonderful compliment to me. And here they are. Still going strong and the great energy adds something to the overall environment. It’s contagious.”

Larscheid found out the fan-club notoriety wasn’t just in the arena. When he crossed the border, he was asked by a Canada Border Service Agency officer if he had anything to declare. His answer was “no”. However, the officer did make one declaration.

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“Oh, by the way, I’m a Larscheider,” he said.

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The Larscheiders’ Canucks fan group. Photo by Photo courtesy of The Larscheide /prv

Carlo Bodrogi, 42, is co-founder of The Larscheiders. He knew that meeting with Larscheid was a pivotal point to further the fan following. It lasted two hours because of mutual respect.

“It was his authenticity and no BS,” said Bodrogi. “The voice of the fan and we wanted to channel his contagious enthusiasm. As a fan-initiated endeavour, we didn’t have a touchstone.

“Our guidelines are people are here to actually watch the game. When the puck is in play, you’re not on Instagram or bitching about your boss or anything else. It’s respect. We have all ages and orientations and we won’t be abusive or do anything that puts a black mark on us.

“The Larscheiders stand the entire game and newbies to the experience must be Canuck fans.”

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Jay Marshall, 42, grew up in Nova Scotia and had no links to hockey. However, when he moved to Vancouver, the prospect of attending a Canucks’ game last year went from a curiosity to consistency.

“Everybody is pretty nice and welcoming, but you can’t bring in a non-Canucks fan,” he warned. “A buddy is a big Leafs’ fan and after a few beers he gets kind of chirpy. I’m not going to bring him.

“None of our chants are directed at fans. If another section starts chirping us, we’ll engage but that hasn’t really happened.”

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Making a playoff impact perplexing

The challenge now for The Larscheiders is to have an added impact outside the arena.

With pricey playoff tickets at a premium, they’ve gone from negotiating a package of games at the outset of the season, that’s commensurate to what they’re spending, to the reality of a bottom-line business. 

“First playoff-revenue generating game in almost a decade (2015) so we understand,” stressed Bodrogi. “It’s the big ticket. I’m still hopeful the organization will do something for us in later games.”

In the interim, there could be opportunities in the downtown core, perhaps ticketed, gated and properly secured events.

“At the very least, and whenever it does get announced, we’d like to be a part of a fan zone or the viewing parties that occur, or deals with bars that we might go to,” suggested Bodrogi. 

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Added Marshall: “It’s a business and I get it. But there’s not much drive on the team side or from ownership to include discounts for The Larscheiders in the playoffs. But in fostering the fandom, I wish there was more effort.”

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This was the scene in the 2015 playoffs. Imagine what it’s going to be like if the Canucks go on a 2024 run?

Larscheid sees connection to the 1994 run

This remarkable season has brought back some fond memories for Larscheid.

Even when the Canucks were regularly losing, before rallying in this sensational season to capture the Pacific Division title for the first time in 11 years, it was Larscheid’s direct yet soothing voice to summarize setbacks.

Imagine what he’s thinking about these Canucks.

“This is the utmost accomplishment,” said Larscheid. “It was so unexpected to me. I had no idea they would be as competitive. They kind of dipped in the stretch run, but I’m very proud how they righted the ship and won important games. 

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“For crying out loud, how long have we been waiting for a winning team? It’s terrific.”

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The late Pat Quinn had good teams and good times, much like current Canucks head coach Rick Tocchet.

Larscheid knew of Rick Tocchet as a brash and productive winger, but he has a new appreciation in how he’s handled the bench.

“To me, he’s been the real key,” added Larscheid of the Jack Adams Award favourite. “He was a fabulous competitor and tough and skilled. He knew what it took to produce and be a winning player.

“I have the highest respect for what he’s done with this team. He has articulated his responses and they’ve (players) responded beautifully.”

There are comparisons with how the late Pat Quinn ran the bench in an amazing and unexpected run to Game 7 of the 1994 Stanley Cup Final against the New York Rangers.

“It’s the respect that the players have for the coach,” said Larscheid. “Quinn was imposing but related to the players so well. He was a players’ coach. If a guy made a mistake, he’d put him right back out there and he didn’t miss a shift. It just showed confidence.

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“I see it with Tocchet.”

Larscheid also saw how the 1994 Canucks hit their stride at the right time to shock their doubters.

“It had a wonderful blend of highly skilled players and muckers and tough guys,” recalled Larscheid. “Quinn put together a very competitive team that really found a stride in the playoffs. Winning that Game 7 against Calgary (first round) and Pavel Bure with the overtime goal was something.

“This team has shown, and it has a ways to go, that it could accomplish that.”

‘Easily best defenceman they’ve ever had’

Larscheid sees a generational talent in captain Quinn Hughes, who was compared with Bobby Orr while still at the University of Michigan, and is now a strong Norris Trophy candidate.

“A phenomenal talent,” gushed Larscheid. “I’ve never seen anything like it in Canucks history. Easily the best defenceman they’re ever had. Like all the great ones, he has the ability to know where the puck is going to be and where he has to be. 

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“It’s his skating and passing. He can stickhandle in a phone booth, that’s how good he is. He turns and changes direction and never misses a beat. I just love watching him play. He deserves the Norris Trophy.”

Larscheid deserves plenty of plaudits for keeping us educated and entertained with his broadcast-booth bravado. Does he miss it? Sure. But, man, what a run.

“I’m very grateful,” summed up Larscheid.


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