Canucks’ anthem singer hit all the right notes
By Iain MacIntyre, Vancouver Sun columnist September 10, 2015
VANCOUVER — On many nights during the Canucks’ bleak, early years in the National Hockey League, the best Vancouver performer was anthem singer Richard Loney. At least, he was the most consistent.
For 2,000 games spread over four decades, the Vancouver school teacher and tenor showed up at the Pacific Coliseum, then Rogers Arena and delivered O Canada with as much grace as gusto, singing with clarity and dignity before Canucks games.
He went crazy a couple of times and wore a Canucks jersey under his suit jacket. Once during the 1982 Stanley Cup Final, his son Brian remembers, Richard waved a white towel after the anthems. His respect for O Canada was indicative of Loney’s respect for everyone. He was a gentle soul who seemed to have a smile and kind word for everyone he met.
Wednesday, at age 82, that soul passed from this world as Loney succumbed to the last in a series of strokes that began in 2009.
“He was involved in music his whole life,” Brian Loney said Thursday. “And my mom was very musical as well. Music was always playing in our house. I would say music was my dad’s life, but he did so many different things. He loved everything he did — teaching and his music and his sports.”
Loney had merged his passions for hockey and music in 1970 when he began singing before Canucks games soon after Vancouver’s NHL debut against the Los Angeles Kings that Oct. 9.
Local singer and CBC television entertainer Juliette Cavazzi — known as Our Pet Juliette — sang O Canada before the Canucks’ inaugural game. An avid hockey fan who had played at UBC in the 1950s, Loney watched her from the stands at the Coliseum. He lived in the Arbutus Ridge area of Vancouver but taught music and French in North Vancouver, mostly at Sutherland Secondary.
The Loneys all sang at the Canadian Memorial United Church.
“He contacted us and said, ‘I can do that for you,’ ” Greg Douglas, the Canucks’ original public relations director, said Thursday. “We didn’t have any clue who would sing the anthems from one game to the next, but he came out and hit a home run. Everybody loved him, and it just went from there. He became a mainstay for 2,000 games and 40 years. He had great lungs.”
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I had the honour of being named the PA announcer for the Canucks in 1986. (*With 5 games left in the season – and then I got married and moved – so that was it). I had the pleasure of working with Richard Loney, and believe me, my respect was and is HUGE for that kind, talented man. My condolences to his Family, the Canucks Family, and his huge fan base.