Former owner laments Grizzlies’ departure, vows NBA would succeed in Vancouver

Trevor Linden and Arthur Griffiths, former owner of the Vancouver Canucks, sit in front of a statue of the late Pat Quinn during a ceremony in February 2017. (Ben Nelms/CP)

Businessman and former professional franchise owner Arthur Griffiths vows an NBA team would be “wildly successful” in Vancouver and, as the former owner of the Grizzlies, still laments the team’s departure after five seasons in 2001.

Seeing the team moved south “was a real body blow,” Griffiths told the hosts of Sportsnet 650’s The Starting Lineup this morning in studio. However, there is reason to hope for a future return of the league to the city — not that he’s looking. No, seriously. The former owner of the Canucks and Grizzlies said he’s not actively looking.

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Sportsnet’s Starting Lineup
Arthur Griffiths talks Grizzlies, Canucks and being spied on in Russia
Originally aired November 08 2017

“If someone has a passion and love for the game and the pockets, and more importantly perhaps, the cache with the NBA, you could easily bring a team here. There is no doubt in my mind it would be wildly successful,” he said. “The reality is the Canucks lost tenfold per anum in the ’90s than the Grizzlies. The Grizzlies lost $2, $2.5, $3 million versus $20, $25 million.”

The challenge is finding an NBA team he said, echoing Tuesday’s comment from current Canucks’ owner, Francesco Aquillini, who also came in studio to talk with Sportsnet 650.

Griffths shared insight about Wayne Gretzky and the late Pat Quinn, who became the club’s general manager in 1987 after an extensive contract negotiation with the Griffiths family, who wanted the executive to bring respectability to the franchise.

“I had met Pat when I was 14 and getting his autograph, I said it was ironic, because I wanted it many years later and he wanted mine.”

When the pair were in Moscow to meet with Pavel Bure — “He changed the face of the franchise” — Griffiths said the two North Americans were tailed, eavesdropped on and watched closely by the KGB.

Griffiths still follows the Canucks closely and misses the high-stakes competition and immediate feedback seen in the win and loss columns.

“I love to compete and I love to try to win whatever it is I’m doing. That was the measurement and it was a daily drive in me.”