Soccer Bowl '83: The day Vancouver soccer fans supported Tulsa Roughnecks
As we build up to Whitecaps FC's return to downtown Vancouver, whitecapsfc.com takes a look at the major soccer events that have been staged at BC Place since the stadium's first opening 28 years ago. Today, we look at the last-ever single-match championship game for the North American Soccer League (NASL) title - Soccer Bowl '83 between Tulsa Roughnecks and Toronto Blizzard.
There were great expectations among Vancouver Whitecaps fans that the Blue and White would make the final on October 1, 1983. Vancouver had enjoyed a sensational season, finishing first overall in the NASL with a scintillating 24W-6L record. A Soccer Bowl victory on home turf seemed to be destined for the 'Caps, but it all went horribly wrong. Seventh-seeded Toronto knocked out the Whitecaps in the first round of the playoffs in a huge upset, with Vancouver fans outraged by the Blizzard's defensive and negative tactics. Toronto then defeated Golden Bay Earthquakes in both matches of their semifinal series to reach Soccer Bowl.
Winners of the NASL's Southern Division, Tulsa's path to Vancouver saw the Roughnecks defeat division rivals Fort Lauderdale Strikers twice in the first round of the playoffs before meeting Canadian club Montreal Manic in a three-match semifinal series. The Oklahoma-based outfit won their two home matches to book their trip to Canada's west coast and a Soccer Bowl showdown with Toronto.
A crowd of 60,051 made their way to BC Place on the first day of October that year. Still smarting from the Whitecaps defeat to the Blizzard, the Vancouver crowd sided with Terry Hennessey's Roughnecks. Tulsa used that support to win their first and only NASL championship title. After a goalless first half, a free-kick strike by Njego Pesa set the Roughnecks on their way to victory before Englishman Ron Futcher converted a Tulsa corner to seal a 2-0 win over Toronto. The Blizzard were livid at the lack of Canadian camaraderie from Vancouver fans during the game, and that has led to bad blood between Vancouver and Toronto soccer fans ever since.
Following Soccer Bowl, BC Place geared up for another major sporting event on November 27, 1983, as the stadium played host to the 71st Grey Cup game for the Canadian Football League (CFL) championship.