Larry "Pope" Popein

Larry "Pope" Popein was a speedy defensive centre and penalty killer. He played in the NHL with the New York Rangers, but he spent most of his career playing with two non-NHL teams nicknamed Canucks.

Popein started out as an offensive dynamo with the Moose Jaw Canucks. He turned pro in 1951 with the WHL version of the Vancouver Canucks.

After three years in Vancouver Popein got the call up to the New York Rangers. Imagine that - the kid from small Yorkton, Saskatchewan on his way to the Big Apple. But it really is a small world. In Popein's first NHL game, against the Detroit Red Wings, he faced off against townsman Metro Prystai.

"That was the very first NHL game I ever saw. And I was playing in it," Popein remembered.

He would go on to play in 449 NHL games. He was a small center who brought his proverbial work boots and lunch bucket to every game. He often centered the Rangers big line with Andy Bathgate and Dean Prentice on the wings.

But by the 1960s he was back in Vancouver, starring with the WHL Canucks. He would stay in Vancouver until the NHL expanded in 1967-68 when he got another shot in the big leagues, this time with the Oakland Seals.

Popein hung up the blades by 1970, the same year the Vancouver Canucks became a NHL franchise. Popein, who called Vancouver home, began a coaching career which include a stint coaching the Rangers in New York.

Popein's coaching highlight, however, may have come in 1970. He coached the Omaha Knights to a CHL championship. On that team was future NHL star Syl Apps, Jr., the son of Hockey Hall of Famer and Popein's idol as a youth Syl Apps Sr.

Popein returned to Vancouver and worked in various capacities with the Canucks from 1974 to 1986. He later worked with Calgary primarily as a scout.


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