Embedded at centre ice in Rogers Arena’s concrete is a framed photo of the Griffiths family that bears a plaque engraved “The Dream Team.” Arthur Griffiths placed it there himself while the concrete was being poured in 1995 as the arena then known as General Motors Place was still under construction. As far as anyone knows it’s still there, implanted as a reminder of a magical period when Arthur and the Griffiths family built this world-class arena—home to the Canucks, the Grizzlies, and later the Vancouver 2010 Olympics—and changed the sporting landscape of British Columbia forever.
Born and raised in Vancouver, after graduating from BCIT Arthur Griffiths went to work full-time for the Canucks, owned by his father Frank as part of the Western International Communications broadcasting empire. Arthur began with on-the-phone season ticket renewals and worked his way up.
By 1981, he had been promoted to assistant to the chairman and an early task involved travelling to Czechoslovakia to sign Ivan Hlinka and Jiri Bubla, who played key roles in the Canucks’ unlikely 1982 Stanley Cup Final run. In 1985, Griffiths began working to bring Pat Quinn to Vancouver as president and general manager, a move that ultimately changed the fortunes of the spiraling franchise and culminated in an unforgettable charge to Game 7 of the 1994 Stanley Cup Final.
With Quinn in place, Griffiths represented the team on the NHL’s Board of Governors and to make the Canucks a more viable business he explored options for a new downtown arena. Settling on a landmark site in False Creek between the Georgia and Dunsmuir viaducts, General Motors Place—Canada’s first privately financed arena since Maple Leaf Gardens in 1931—opened in 1995 at a cost of $163 million. It has been regarded as one of Canada’s finest arenas ever since.
At the same time, Griffiths worked to bring an NBA franchise to Vancouver. After jumping through many expansion hoops, including a $125 million expansion fee, the Vancouver Grizzlies were born in 1995. That same year, Griffiths supported the creation of the Canuck Place children’s hospice in Vancouver, the first free-standing hospice for children in North America. However, the weak Canadian dollar did Griffiths no favours and in a heartbreaking move he was forced to sell the Canucks, Grizzlies, and the arena to partner John McCaw in 1997.
But Griffiths landed on his feet in time for his biggest contribution to the province’s sporting scene: chairing the Vancouver/Whistler 2010 Bid Society. In 1998 he successfully obtained the Canadian Olympic Committee’s endorsement to bid on Canada’s behalf for the right to host the 2010 Olympic Winter Games and set the wheels in motion for the biggest sporting event ever held in BC’s history.
Written and researched by Jason Beck, Curator of the BC Sports Hall of Fame.