Chapter 3: Rebirth of the 'Caps
Leading up to the club's official unveiling of their new brand on June 8, Brandon Timko takes a closer look at the different logos and teams since the Whitecaps inaugural season in 1974. Below is the third chapter of a four-part series.
By Brandon Timko/whitecapsfc.com
The dawn of a new millennium spawned another chapter in the ever-evolving story of professional soccer in Vancouver. After owning both the BC Lions and Vancouver 86ers, David Braley decided to focus his attention on Canadian football and sold the 86ers to local businessman David Stadnyk in August 2000.
CLICK HERE to view Chapter One and HERE to view Chapter Two of our Whitecaps FC logo history
While the 86ers achieved a great deal of success in their early years, the club had gone the last nine seasons without a championship and decided that, with a new millennium and new ownership, it was time to re-brand. However, rather than simply starting a new and avoiding the city's rich soccer history, Stadnyk and company drew inspiration from it. On October 26, 2000, after widespread public support, the 86ers formally changed their name back to the Whitecaps, and after the naming rights were purchased from former NASL Whitecaps director John Laxton, professional soccer in Vancouver came full circle. "There is a great history and a tremendous amount of goodwill associated with the Whitecaps name. It’s obvious that it provides a lot of pleasant memories for people who watched the team growing up," said Whitecaps FC president Bob Lenarduzzi. "Now that they’ve grown older, they want their kids to enjoy the same experiences that they enjoyed as youngsters."
In their process of re-branding, the club enlisted the help of Tom Mayenknecht of Emblematica Brand Builders and Luie Zappacosta of Zapp Worx Design. With their help, the Whitecaps name was brought back to life. "It’s amazing how important these things are to the fans. The best organizations are the ones that cherish the past and reflect the future," added Mayenknecht, who provided branding direction and proposed the conceptual design. "The most important part of the re-branding was the repatriation of the Whitecaps name. From there, we felt it was important to retain the original spirit and feel of the 1970's emblem in the new millennium logo. We were inspired to protect that history as the new mark’s main element, which is why we retained the wave. We added the sea green because we felt that the blue-green palette best represented the west coast roots of the club."
Zappacosta provided the inspiration to turn the conceptual design into reality. "We modernized it by adding a more contemporary, funkier 'Whitecaps' word mark," explained Zappacosta. "We streamlined the design into a 'Vancouver V' shape with the 'V' also representing 'victory' for the winning tradition of the franchise." The initial logo also included the word 'Vancouver' at the top above the word 'Whitecaps'. The uniforms were modelled after the old NASL Soccer Bowl winning kits, with white home uniforms featuring a blue band in the center with the word 'Whitecaps' in white print, and blue away uniforms with a white band in the center and the word 'Vancouver' in blue letters.
The club's first season back under the Whitecaps name saw Dale Mitchell earn 2001 A-League Coach of the Year honours after leading his squad to a first-place finish in the Western Conference standings. Unfortunately, a championship would elude the 'Caps when Hershey Wildcats downed the Blue and White in the playoff semifinals.
2001 also saw the expansion of the club into the women's game, as Vancouver Breakers were formed following the merger between the Vancouver Angels and Vancouver Lady 86ers teams. The Breakers had an exciting first year in the top division of the W-League (W1), finishing first in the Western Conference before falling 5-1 to Boston Renegades in the championship final. The following season, the Breakers hosted the W-League championship tournament and finished third after defeating Denver Lady Cougars in the third-place match. 2002 also saw Mitchell move on to become head coach of Canada’s U-20 men’s national team, with former Portuguese international Tony Fonseca stepping in as Whitecaps head coach on February 13, 2002. The 'Caps made it to the Western Conference playoff final, but were beaten by eventual champions Milwaukee Rampage.
Although both the men's and women's teams were gaining momentum on the pitch, 2002 proved to be a topsy-turvy year for Vancouver's professional soccer club. Stadnyk stepped down as owner midway through the season, handing the club's rights to the league, who in turn, appointed Lenarduzzi as head of a search committee to find a new owner. Luckily for Vancouver soccer fans, that search led to local businessman and current owner Greg Kerfoot, who took over ownership of the club on November 13, 2002. Looking towards the future, as well as the growth of soccer both locally and across the country, a new club structure was created. On February 23, 2003, the Whitecaps men and Breakers women were brought together under the name Whitecaps Football Club (FC), with the new organizational set-up to include an extensive youth development program. To reflect this structural change to the Whitecaps FC brand, the club dropped 'Vancouver' from their logo. Kerfoot was quick to demonstrate his commitment to excellence, announcing plans to build the Whitecaps Training Centre on the campus of Simon Fraser University on April 14, 2004.
With stable ownership finally guiding the club, success on the field soon followed. The Whitecaps women were the first to bring silverware back to the club. After finishing the regular season undefeated (13 wins, 1 draw), the Whitecaps women - who were led by head coach Chris Bennett - made it to the W-League final in Ottawa, Ontario, against fellow unbeaten side New Jersey Wildcats. The two powerhouses battled to a 0-0 draw through 120 minutes of play before goalkeeper Erin McLeod scored the shootout winner to give the Whitecaps their first W-League North American championship title. The club also experienced success on the youth side, sending five teams to the Super Y-League North American finals in 2004, with the U-13 Boys winning the championship title.
In 2005, the A-League was re-named the United Soccer Leagues First Division (USL-1), while former Montreal Impact tactician Bob Lilley replaced Tony Fonseca as Whitecaps men's team head coach. Under the guidance of Lilley, the 'Caps finished in third place in the USL-1 standings, but fell to Richmond Kickers in the opening round of the playoffs. Striker Jason Jordan had an outstanding year for the men's team, being named USL-1 Most Valuable Player after leading the league in goals (17) and points (37). One of the more memorable moments of the season came on July 16, 2005, when the Whitecaps men's team met English Premiership League club Sunderland A.F.C. The English-based club played an integral role in bringing professional soccer to Vancouver, playing as Vancouver Royal Canadians back in 1967. The Whitecaps promptly thanked their Premiership guests for their contributions by defeating them 3-0 in front of a packed house at Swangard Stadium.
One of the most illustrious years in club history ensued the following season, as the men’s and women’s teams claimed an unprecedented double of USL titles. The men’s team finished a modest fourth in the USL-1 standings, but heated up during the playoffs, defeating Miami FC and Montreal Impact to reach the championship final away to Rochester Raging Rhinos. On September 30, 2006, the Whitecaps men won their first title since the 1991 CSL championship with a 3-0 victory in Upstate New York. The men also continued to scalp victories over high-profile British foes, beating English Championship club Cardiff City on penalties that season. Meanwhile, under the guidance of head coach Bob Birarda, the undefeated Whitecaps women claimed their second W-League championship title in three seasons with a 3-0 win over Ottawa Fury in the final at Swangard on August 6, 2006.
After achieving success with both the men’s and women’s squads, the club instituted another pillar to their club structure, creating the Whitecaps Residency program. Starting in September 2007 under the guidance of Thomas Niendorf, and as North America’s first full-time professional development set-up, the Residency program has already proven to be a huge success, with as many as eight players having seen time with the first team, while numerous others have been loaned out to German Bundesliga club FC Energie Cottbus.
The club continued to play host to exciting friendly matches, and on November 7, 2007, in a taste of things to come, the Whitecaps played David Beckham and Major League Soccer (MLS) club Los Angeles Galaxy to a 0-0 draw in front of 48,172 fans at BC Place. The two clubs then met again on May 13, 2008, at Edmonton’s Commonwealth Stadium, with the 'Caps prevailing 2-1.
2008 was another big year for the club, as Icelandic coach Teitur Thordason took over as Whitecaps men’s team head coach. This was also an important year for club soccer across Canada, with the inaugural edition of the Nutrilite Canadian Championship being played. Although the Whitecaps struggled against Montreal, they did pull out a pair of surprising results against MLS side Toronto FC. In front of a rabid crowd at BMO Field on Canada Day (July 1, 2008), Thordason’s side famously handed Toronto their first home defeat of the season with a 1-0 victory. Eight days later, the Whitecaps completed their tournament campaign with a late 2-2 draw versus TFC at Swangard. The men’s team built on that momentum and finished the USL-1 regular season a point back of Commissioner's Cup winners Puerto Rico Islanders.
After beating Minnesota in the first round, Vancouver met Montreal Impact in the semifinals and despite having goalkeeper Jay Nolly sent off in the first leg at Stade Saputo, the 'Caps managed to win the series 2-1 on aggregate and advanced to the championship match. In what was the first men's championship final at Swangard since the 1992 CSL season, and the first-ever USL-1 championship match to involve two clubs from outside of the United States, the Whitecaps defeated Puerto Rico 2-1 in front of 5,822 fans on October 12, 2008, to win their second USL-1 title in three seasons. It was also in 2008 that the Whitecaps Residency squad reached the Premier Development League (PDL) semifinals in their inaugural season in the league before losing 2-1 to eventual champions Thunder Bay Chill.
On October 15, 2008, the Whitecaps submitted a bid to secure one of two MLS expansion teams for the 2011 season, having initially announced their bidding plans at a press conference in Vancouver on July 25, 2008. On March 18, 2009, MLS commissioner Don Garber announced that Vancouver would be the home of the 17th team in MLS, with the new side to start their inaugural season at a temporary stadium on the site of the Pacific National Exhibition's Empire Fields (formerly Empire Stadium) in March 2011. Later that summer, the new team will make the new BC Place Stadium their new home. "The city of Vancouver and the Whitecaps have a rich and storied soccer history, which includes long-standing rivalries with Toronto and Seattle," said Lenarduzzi. "The successful bid for a Major League Soccer franchise offers a whole new level of opportunity for our organization, and by extension, for our city and our province."
Looking ahead to MLS, the Whitecaps men’s team took on a drastically different look entering the 2009 season. Gone were many of the veterans who had led the club to their last two championships, and in place, was an array of talented young players.
Thordason’s youthful squad endured a tough season, barely qualifying for the playoffs after a seventh-place finish. Despite a frustrating regular season, the 'Caps managed to hit their stride come playoff time. After dispatching of the second-seeded Carolina RailHawks in the opening round, the Blue and White cut down regular season champions Portland Timbers in the semifinals, setting up a showdown with rivals Montreal Impact in the first ever all-Canadian USL-1 final. Unfortunately for Vancouver fans, the season would end in disappointment with the Impact taking the crown after the Whitecaps received red cards in both legs of the USL-1 Championship Series. This alone would have been enough for Whitecaps fans to foster negative feelings about the Impact, but much of the hostility towards their future MLS rivals stemmed from earlier in the season. Vancouver looked to be well on their way to claiming the second edition of the Nutrilite Canadian Championship after a 2-0 home victory over Toronto FC, meaning that the Reds needed to win the tournament's final match in Montreal by no less than four goals. TFC won the match 6-1, much to the shock of the Whitecaps faithful, giving the MLS club Canada’s lone spot in the 2009-10 CONCACAF Champions League.
On November 10, 2009, the Whitecaps brought an end to their time in USL-1 after 16 seasons in the league. A dispute between the league and the Team Owners Association (TOA) ultimately led to the formation of a temporary USSF run 'Division 2' professional soccer league for the 2010 season, aptly called 'USSF Division-2 Professional League'.
With another influx of new players, the 2010 Whitecaps men's team looks for a strong end to their time in the second division. After four draws in four matches, the Nutrilite Canadian Championship again eluded Thordason’s side, but in what is hopefully a sign of things to come, the club did maintain a favourable record against their future MLS foes from Toronto (two wins, one defeat, three draws). On the Whitecaps women’s side, the team started their season on the right foot under new head coach Hubert Busby Jr., with the 'Caps claiming a win and a draw versus Colorado Force FC. The Whitecaps Residency squad have had a tough start to their PDL campaign this year, but they can proudly boast the ascension to the first team of youngsters such as Philippe Davies, Randy Edwini-Bonsu, Ethan Gage, Dever Orgill, Cornelius Stewart and Doudou Toure. They can also brag about the overseas success of their other graduates, most notably Adam Straith, who has played consistently with the Energie Cottbus first team and recently earned his first senior international cap for Canada against Argentina.
Meanwhile, the Whitecaps have laid the foundation for the their 2011 MLS debut, hiring former D.C. United head coach Tom Soehn to scour the world for talent as club director of soccer operations, while luring former Tottenham Hotspur executive director Paul Barber to take charge of the club as chief executive officer. The Whitecaps now look to complete a memorable first ten years in the 21st century by adding some more silverware to their growing trophy case. With a grand future in MLS on the horizon, the time has come again to turn the page and write the next chapter in Vancouver's distinguished soccer history. May the next 36 years be as spectacular as the first.