On May 5, 2009, Vancouver Whitecaps FC will celebrate 35 years since they set foot on the old Empire Stadium turf for their inaugural North American Soccer League (NASL) match versus San Jose Earthquakes. Though the Whitecaps lost the game 2-1, there were many exciting times ahead for the city's professional soccer club.
Since 1974, the Whitecaps story has been a long and fascinating tale. Success in the 1979 NASL Soccer Bowl united Vancouverites and left an indelible mark on the city's collective consciousness, while a new generation of soccer fans reveled in the success of four-straight Canadian Soccer League (CSL) championships between 1988 and 1991. There were also moments of sorrow like the passing of former players such as Alan Ball, John Craven, and Domenic Mobilio. Dark days were also experienced after leagues like the NASL and CSL folded, while the city came to the brink of losing their professional soccer club because of ownership uncertainty. On the lighter side, many still remember the time when Willie Johnston drank from a fan's beer before taking a corner kick that led to a Whitecaps goal.
Throughout those 35 years, the Whitecaps have broken new ground and pioneered new ways of doing things - not only in the world of soccer, but even in North America. The club were the first and only team in Vancouver to win a professional North American championship, the only professional sports club in the city to have a top-level women’s team, and the first soccer club in North America to set up and run a fully integrated Residency program that develops young talent in a similar model to professional clubs in Europe. The Whitecaps are also pioneers in the field of sport philanthropy through their development of the Whitecaps Foundation and all of its corresponding initiatives. This March, the club will also be the first local professional sports team to embark on a preseason trip to Africa.
With many positive changes and developments that are being anticipated in the near future, the club are marking this special year by designing a special commemorative version of the current Whitecaps logo. The '35 Years' logo is a celebration of all the club have become in men's, women's, and youth soccer in that time. The logo captures the championship spirit and resilience that has led the Whitecaps to persevere for more than three decades. The player silhouettes featured in the logo are those of current Whitecaps men’s and women’s team players, as well as a Whitecaps youth development participant.
The commemorative logo, along with a corresponding word mark version, will be featured throughout the 2009 season on items such as the Whitecaps season ticket booklets, commemorative pins, and a special limited edition collection of 16 retrospective player cards sponsored by Shaw Cable. At each Whitecaps men's regular season home match this season, a new player card will be distributed free to the first 1,000 fans that enter Swangard Stadium.
There will also be a limited edition line of commemorative UMBRO clothing that will highlight the many eras of the club's history. These commemorative items will be unveiled at various stages during the season, with the first item being released in late April. The '35 Years' word mark will also be featured on the 2009 player jerseys and staff uniforms.
In addition to those commemorative symbols, a series of special events and appearances are planned throughout the year. Many of these events will include Whitecaps alumni - without whom the club’s rich history could never have been built. Alumni guest appearances will be announced at a later date.
The Whitecaps Foundation also has a special program commemorating the club's 35 years of history called the '35 for 35 Club'. Donors to the program include Chubb Insurance Company of Canada and several other individuals, with their support helping Foundation initiatives like youth development, women's team, and community-based facilities.For more information on donating to the 35 for 35 Club, click here for the Whitecaps Foundation website.