Dany Sabourin

Dany Sabourin was a well travelled journeyman goaltender who will always be remembered for his shocking appearance in the 2007 playoffs.

On May 3rd in 2007, Vancouver Canucks backup backstop Dany Sabourin surprised everyone, including GM Dave Nonis and especially the fans, by starting the overtime period against the Anaheim Ducks in Game 5 of the Western Conference Semifinals in place of netminder Roberto Luongo.

Originally thought to be an equipment issue, Luongo later revealed his absence was due to untimely diarrhea. A subsequent tweet and explanation on CBC's After Hours confirmed that Lou was in the loo.

Anaheim beat Vancouver 2-1 in double overtime, taking the series 4-1

He made five saves at the beginning of that hectic first overtime until Luongo could get back in.

"[Rick] Bowness came up to me and said put your helmet on, put your glove on, you're going in," Sabourin said.

"It was surprising. But he had a problem so we had no choice."

Sabourin said he felt proud about his performance, during which he kept his head clear.

"I didn't want to get too deep in my net and it worked," Sabourin said.

He was in the game for 3:34 until Luongo came back.

As he was coming back into the game, Luongo passed by Sabourin and shared some words for his backup.

"He said, 'I'm sorry to put you in that spot,' " Sabourin said. "He said it in French and he said it fast. I knew he said it fast because he had to get back into the net."

Canucks coach Alain Vigneault said he was impressed with the way Sabourin handled the situation.

"It wasn't an easy situation to put him in, we told him just three or four minutes before that he was going in," Vigneault said. "We told him something was wrong. I really liked Roberto's reaction because he knew he had put his buddy in a tough spot."

Sabourin turned his brief appearance into a two year contract as Pittsburgh's back-up goaltender.



Garth Rizzuto

Garth Rizzuto is the answer to a little known trivia question.

Who was the first BC born hockey player to play for the Vancouver Canucks?

Rizzuto was born in Trail BC in September 1947. Ironically enough, his junior hockey training came from 1965-1967 in the SJHL with a Moose Jaw team nicknamed "Canucks."

That Moose Jaw team was a junior development team of the Chicago Blackhawks. Rizzuto spent three years in the Hawks minor league system starting in 1967-68, gradually improving his point totals to a respectable 62 points a year. However because of his lack of size and strength and true offensive production, the speedy Rizzuto was never considered to be a serious NHL prospect.

That changed when the NHL announced a new expansion team was granted on Canada's west coast. The Canucks selected Rizzuto from the Hawks and hoped that he could bring youth and speed to the Canucks inaugural season.

Rizzuto played in 37 NHL games in 1970-71, scoring 3 goals and 4 assists. Having also spent time in the minors, it may have been little more than a publicity stunt by the Canucks. Having a BC born player in the lineup created interest in the team of more than just the die-hard fans.

Rizzuto was sent to the minors for the entire 1971-72 season and was nowhere as near as successful as he was with the Hawks farm team. By 1972-73 he was released and signed on with the WHA's Winnipeg Jets for two uneventful years.

Rizzuto disappeared after 1974, but did resurface for 6 games in Nelson, British Columbia when he played in 6 games for the Nelson Maple Leafs of the little known WIHL.

Few Canucks fans remember him, but in a way he was a pioneer. 40 other BC born hockey players would fulfill their dreams of playing with the local NHL team by the turn of the century.



Anders Eldebrink

Anders Eldebrink never made an impact in the NHL but he was a key cog on the Swedish national team for the entire 1980's and is extremely well respected back in Sweden. He was voted as the best left-side defenseman in Swedish hockey history by Swedish hockey fans in 1995.

He grew up in the small northern town of Kalix but moved to Södertälje, near Stockholm, as a youngster where he played most of his career. His older brother Kent was a world class javelin thrower and represented Sweden many times in that discipline. But Anders naturally turned to hockey, as most kids did in Kalix.

Anders was a five year veteran of the Swedish Elite league when he came to the NHL barely 21-years old. He had been signed as a free agent by Vancouver Canucks on May 18, 1981 and went over to North America that same fall. He had a fine rookie camp and made the Canucks team right away. He played 38 games during the regular season, collecting 9 points and then played another 13 games in the playoffs as Vancouver went on to have their cinderella season when they made it all the way to the finals.

Anders however lacked the maturity and patience at that time and never got a real crack at making it in Vancouver. The following season (1982-83) he was traded to Quebec for goalie John Garrett. He saw limited ice time in Quebec as well and was mainly playing for their Fredericton farm team in the AHL.

After only two seasons over in North American Anders headed home again, back to Södertälje. Later Anders would admit that regretted that he hadn't stayed in Sweden for a longer time.

"I went over to North America way too early. I wasn't mature enough and I guess I had too much respect. I also never got much icetime from neither Harry Neale or Roger Neilson," he said of the Canucks coaches.

Although his NHL career was over early on, he went on to become a dominant force on the Swedish national team and in the Swedish Elite league for many years. Anders developed into a lethal powerplay specialist with a deadly shot. His offensive play was his strongest weapon. He was a great puck handler and a very mobile defenseman. He was always among the highest scoring defensemen in the Swedish league. In 1985 he led his Södertälje team to the Swedish title.

His finest moments though came when he put on the Swedish national team jersey. He participated in six World Championships, two Canada Cups and one Olympic tournament. Anders especially excelled when Sweden became the World Champions in 1987. Although he didn't make the All-Star team, most people considered Anders to be the best defenseman of the tournament. He was +14 in the tournament and played extremely well in both ends of the ice.

At a dinner party after the Swedes had won the Gold he got a fine acknowledgement from two Russian giants, Vyacheslav Fetisov and Alexei Kasatonov.

"It was really nice to hear both Fetisov and Kasatonov say that they thought I was the best defenseman in the tournament. To hear it from two such great players made me proud," Anders said.

That 1987 tournament was one of Anders highlights during his playing career.

"The feeling when the national anthem was played after we had won the Gold can't be described" Anders said. "It sent shivers down my spine. I was extremely proud to be a Swede at that moment."

In 1988 Anders won the "player of the year" award in Sweden. In 1989 he eventually got some personal revenge as he made the World All-Star team (World Championships).

In the late 1980's Anders was still "hot" on the European market and when he was offered a lucrative contract from the Swiss team Kloten, and he couldn't resist the temptation.Anders went on to play in Kloten for six seasons, between 1990-95, and 1996-97, returning to Södertälje for the 1995-96 season. He was a standout in Switzerland, finishing among the top scoring defensemen each season.

Anders retired after the 1996-97 season and went back to his longtime club Södertälje to work in the front office there.

Not many hockey fans in North America knows who Anders Eldebrink is, but in Sweden he is still well respected wherever he shows up. His NHL career didn't pan out but his European career was extremely successful and rewarding.



Lukas Krajicek

Defenseman Lukas Krajicek had real potential to become an elite offensive player from the blue line. He had a world class skill set in terms of seeing the game and handing and distributing the puck. He was a silky smooth, almost effortless skater and he had a good point shot.

The native of Prostejov, Czech Republic apprenticed in the Ontario Hockey League with the Peterborough Petes and was a first round draft pick (24th) overall of the Florida Panthers in 2001.

It was not a pick without risk, however.

Krajicek was a thin and spindly defender who had little interest in the physical game. It takes an incredibly special player to excel as a defenseman in the National Hockey League while playing a pacifist game. It can be done - think Mark Howe - though usually their physical game is understated.

But Krajicek never really did stick in the NHL. His offensive potential intrigued enough to keep him bouncing around the league with four teams - Florida, Vancouver, Tampa Bay and Philadelphia - for a total of 328 games. Yet the promised offensive numbers never materialized. He scored career totals of 11 goals and 72 points. In his best NHL season he scored just 19 points. Not enough for a depth defenseman who provided little in terms of physical and defensive play.

To make matters worse, Krajicek's game became prone to ill-advised gambles offensively. He would try to make high risk passes rather than making the safe play to get the puck out of the zone. He also developed a bad tendency to pinch at the wrong time, getting trapped behind while the offensive team went on an odd-man rush. And in his own zone teams loved to dump the puck into his corner and forecheck him hard and hope he rushed his decision to move the puck and turn that into a turnover.

Krajicek was an intriguing player with a nice skill set, but ultimately he was not a long time NHL player. He left the NHL in 2010 and continued his career overseas.


Wayne Maki

Wayne Maki will always be known for this ugly incident on the ice:

Born in Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario, Wayne joined older brother Ron "Chico" Maki with the Chicago Black Hawks in the 1967–1968 season.

In 1969 he was claimed by the St. Louis Blues. In a preseason game on September 21, 1969, Maki and Boston Bruins defenceman "Terrible" Ted Green engaged in a violent stick-swinging fight. Broadcasting legend Dan Kelly described the incident as “one of the most horrifying, most violent exchanges I’ve ever seen in hockey.”

After narrowly avoiding an angry strike by Green, Maki retaliated with his own stick and hit Green in the head. Green suffered a fractured skull and a brain injury.

“I could see right away that Green was badly hurt,” Kelly told Brian McFarlane. “When he tried to get up, his face was contorted and his legs began to buckle under him. It was dreadful. I almost became physically ill watching him struggle because I knew this was very, very serious. I remember it like it happened yesterday.”

Assault charges were laid against Green and Maki. The NHL suspended and fined both players. Maki was suspended for 30 days and Green for 13 games “if and when he returns to hockey." Green missed the entire 1969-70 season, but did return to action and played for nearly another decade.

Perhaps disturbed by the incident Maki never stuck with the Blues that season. The Vancouver Canucks claimed Maki in the 1970 NHL Expansion Draft. The wingman was an early hit in Vancouver, being among the team's scoring leaders in each of the club's first two seasons.

Maki's career came to a sudden halt in December 1972 when he was diagnosed with a cancerous brain tumour. He died later that season, on May 12, 1974. He was only 29 years old.

The Canucks took Maki's #11 jersey out of circulation ever since, though Mark Messier wore the number when he joined the team in 1997. No player has worn #11 since Messier's departure in 2000

In 246 games played Wayne Maki scored 57 goals, 79 assists, 136 points, and 184 penalty minutes in regular season play. In 2 post-season games played, he added 1 goal and 2 penalty minutes.



Canucks Trivia

Who was the first Canuck player to score 40 goals?

Which Canuck goaltender registered the first shutout in franchise history?
Who was the first Canuck to be awarded a penalty shot?
Which Canuck goalie surrender Wayne Gretzky's first NHL goal?
Who holds the Canuck record for the fastest 20 goals from the start of the season?
Which general manager is responsible for trading Cam Neely?
Who scored the 5,000th goal in franchise history?
Where was former Canuck Claude Vilgrain born?
While the Canucks have yet to win the Stanley Cup, the Vancouver Millionaires won it in 1915. Name the other British Columbia team to win the Stanley Cup.
Popular Harold Snepsts is of what national descent?



Adrien Plavsic

This is Adrien Plavsic. He is like so many Canadians he is a first generation Canadian from immigrant parents who fell in love with the country and it's wintery game.

Plavsic was born in Montreal, but his parents came from a country that does not even exist anymore - Yugoslavia. He is three-quarters Croatian, though his last name is actually Serbian.

His father, Branka, was a sailor who came to Canada in the 1960s. Wife Majda came soon after.

After centuries of fighting, Yugoslavia fell apart in the 1990s. Though Adrien kept an eye on the developments of his parents homeland, he forever appreciated the sacrifices his parents made to give him a better future.

Adrien was unmistakably Canadian, and, like so many other Canadian kids, he grew up at the local rink chasing pucks and dreams. Sure Plavsic enjoyed the family's traditional game of soccer as well - his uncle Drago Rora played for the Yugoslavian national soccer team - but hockey was Adrien's love. 

Plavsic was one of the rare Canadians to have his hockey dreams came true.

Those dreams included a scholarship education at the University of New Hampshire, though, much to his parents' concern, he left after just one season to pursue hockey goals. 

After being drafted 30th overall by the St. Louis Blues in the 1988 NHL draft, Plavsic decided to fast track his development as a prospect. 

"Getting drafted was one of the biggest thrills of my life," he said. "I always knew I wanted to play in the NHL and I finally saw my dream come true."

Before he reached the big leagues he was recruited by Dave King to play for Canada's national team. Plavsic, a powerful skater with strong instincts for the game, learned much about the defensive side of the game under King.
"Playing for the national team was an excellent opportunity for me," he said. "I got to play top-quality hockey and, at the time, I thought it was the fastest route to the NHL."
Plavsic joined the Blues' organization the next season, but never stuck. He would join the Vancouver Canucks by season's end and would play the bulk of his 214 NHL game career on the west coast.

Plavsic would leave the Canucks and return to the Canadian national team for the 1991-92 season. He was seeking further development and ice time, as well an Olympic medal. Plavsic helped Canada win the silver medal at the 1992 games in Albertville. 

"The Olympics really helped me gain my poise," he said. "I'm a lot more comfortable on the ice now. I really owe a lot to Dave King. He taught me a lot."

Plavsic returned to the Canucks before embarking on a vagabond career that saw him play in Tampa and Anaheim before settling in Switzerland.

You never know where life will take you. In Plavsic's case he played mostly in Zurich where he met the woman who would become his wife. He remains in Switzerland as a hockey coach but also shares his vast experiences as a life coach and integrative nutrition for people in and out of hockey.



Brandon Reid

Brandon Reid only had a couple of cups of NHL coffee totalling just 22 games. But he was a dynamic skater and as hard working a player as he was creative, and you could not help but pull for the little guy. It really showed in his 7 game trial with the Canucks in 2003 which was extended with 9 more games in the playoffs.

Reid was junior superstar with Halifax and later Val d'Or, but he had trouble convincing NHL scouts he could one day make the jump to the big leagues. Despite his obvious skill, speed, creativity and determination, he was passed over in the 1999 draft completely.

It was not until he starred as a Canadian WJC hero in 2000 that he really caught the NHL's attention. He helped Canada win bronze in both 2000 and 2001, and led both Halifax and Val d'Or to Memorial Cup appearances (winning the Most Sportsmanlike Player award both times.

Yet the Vancouver Canucks still waited to the 208th overall in the 2000 draft. Bottom line, Brandon Reid's size, or lack thereof, really hurt his NHL chances.

Ultimately NHL scouts proved to be correct. He never found the right fit to let his speed and creativity off-set his lack of size. He tended to overhandle the puck at times and his defensive game also held him back.

Outside of his 13 games he proved to be a serviceable AHLer with the Manitoba Moose before moving to Europe where he was a fan favorite in both Germany and Switzerlan.



Steve Weeks

For a guy who never really considered a career in professional hockey, Steve Weeks did alright for himself.

When Weeks was a kid in the mid-1970s, he opted to go to Northern Michigan University on a hockey scholarship as opposed to joining the junior Toronto Marlies. For Weeks it made perfect sense. He didn't expect to make the Marlies squad and it was a chance to get a good education on a scholarship. Weeks jumped at the chance.

Weeks played alright for three years at NMU, but in his 4th year he blossomed into an NHL prospect. With a 29-6-1 record and a 2.95 GAA, Weeks backstopped his school right to the NCAA finals only to lose the final game to North Dakota.

Weeks was actually drafted by the New York Rangers a couple of years earlier. They selected the Scarborough Ontario native 176th overall in the 1978 Entry Draft. Weeks development into a genuine prospect must have also surprised and pleased the Rangers.

His first season of professional hockey was in 1980-81. He had a less than spectacular year in the minors with New Haven - a 14-17-3 record and a 4.04 GAA. However the Rangers called up the youngster to back up starter Steve Baker for the rest of the season. Weeks participated in one game, a 2-1 loss to city rivals New York Islanders.

The next season found Weeks as the Rangers starting goalie, much to everyone's surprise. Wayne Thomas retired, Doug Soetaert was traded away and starter Steve Baker suffered a severe groin injury that kept him out much of the season. Weeks played well, sporting a 23-16-9 record and a 3.77 GAA. He also record his first NHL shutout.

Despite Weeks' solid play, the Rangers looked to improve their goaltending situation. They ended up bringing in Glen Hanlon as their starter. Weeks backed up Hanlon for the next two years, but it was clear Weeks wasn't in the Rangers long term plans as they were grooming a young John Vanbiesbrouck as their goalie of the future. Weeks was given away to the Hartford Whalers in the summer of 1984.

Weeks' role in Hartford didn't change much. He played second fiddle to Greg Millen and later Mike Liut

Weeks' stop in Hartford ended on March 8, 1988 when he was traded to Vancouver for an aging Richard Brodeur. By this time Weeks was getting older as well, and there was little doubt what his role would be - backup. He worked well with a young Kirk McLean. Not only was Weeks the backup goalie, but he was basically "Captain Kirk's" coach as well. McLean went on to become one of the top goalies in the early 1990s.

Weeks' career was coming to a close by 1991. He spent all but one game in the minor leagues. Vancouver traded him to Buffalo who only wanted him as a third stringer for their playoff drive. They let him go by season's end. He would go on to toil with the New York Islanders, Los Angeles Kings and Ottawa Senators over the next couple of years. Ironically Weeks pro career came to an end with the Senators farm team in New Haven - the same place where he started his pro career.

Weeks finished his career with a respectable 111-119-33 record with 5 shutouts and a 3.74 GAA



Bret Hedican

Bret Hedican celebrates the Stanley Cup with wife Kristi Yamaguchi
Like a lot of young American hockey players young Bret Hedican was enthralled by the Miracle on Ice when the United States upset the mighty Soviet Union to win the gold at the 1980 Lake Placid Games.

"I was 10 years old and watching in the living room with my old man," he said. "I thought, 'That's what I want to be. I want to be an Olympian.'"

Hedican achieved that dream in 1992, making the U.S. national team for the Albertville Games while a student at St. Cloud State. Just 21 years old he played eight games and had eight assists and a goal.

Despite playing on World Championship teams in 1997, 1999 and 2001, he was not invited back to the Olympics until 2006, and even then it was with a bit of luck.

USA Hockey general manager Don Waddell, assistant GM Paul Holmgrean and coach Peter Laviolette chose the team in December after three months of scouting the NHL. But Hedican just missed the final cut. But when injuries occurred, Laviolette called on Hedican as a replacement.

"At the start of the year I didn't think I had a shot," Hedican said, "but it was always a dream of mine, and to actually get that call that says, 'We need you and we want you' was incredible."

It helped that Laviolette was Hedican's coach in Carolina. He trusted the veteran defenseman's game.

"He was playing great for me in Carolina," Laviolette said. "He can skate, he has skills, he has experience, he's aware on the ice. He's able to do a lot of different things."

Hedican played 1 assist in 6 games, ending his international hockey career without a medal. But Hedican cherished every moment.

Another reason Hedican loves the Olympics: He met his wife, Olympic gold medal-winning figure skater Kristi Yamaguchi, at the 1992 Games.

"She didn't remember, though," he said. "I ran into her later when I was in Vancouver and she was on tour and reintroduced myself. It was fate; I haven't run into her on tour since."

When Hedican, who was best remembered as one of the best skaters in all of hockey, was asked who was the stronger skater between the two, he said "If I could only skate half as good as her, I'd be the best skater in all of hockey."

Hedican did alright for himself. He had a NHL career spanning over 1000 games, scoring 55 goal and 294 points. Best known as a steady defensive defender with Vancouver and Carolina, he also played with St. Louis, Florida and Anaheim. He was no all star or Norris trophy threat, but he was a very solid, dependable defenseman for a lot of years. And while he did not win an Olympic medal in 2006, he did help Carolina win the Stanley Cup.


Harold Druken

This is Harold Druken, proud native of St. John's, Newfoundland. He played 146 games in the NHL, mostly with Vancouver but also with Carolina and Toronto.

Druken never really stuck in the NHL. He had major league hands in that he was a gifted stickhandler and a quick release. At any given time he could excite the crowd with a couple of shift one-on-one moves but then he would keep the puck and run out of room. Instead of moving the puck to an open teammate he would just hang on to the puck before being rubbed out, rendering him ineffective. He was streaky but far too often too quiet.

He had considerable potential but never matured into a role where he could capitalize on it. His defensive game was labelled as soft and weak, and he never outgrew that label.

Druken is probably best remembered for his spectacular overtime goal late in the 2001 season to secure Vancouver a playoff spot. It was one of 27 goals in Druken's career.

Druken extended his career by playing in Switzerland for a couple of seasons before returning home to Newfoundland.



Mike Fountain

After four seasons in the minor leagues and five callups by the Vancouver Canucks, Mike Fountain finally got a chance to show his stuff in the NHL.

He made the most of it. On November 14th, 1996, not only did Fountain stop 40 shots and end the New Jersey Devils' five-game winning streak in his NHL debut, the goalie just missed scoring an empty-net goal as the Canucks posted a 3-0 victory Thursday.

"That would have been quite a feat if he had done that," said Devils rookie goalie Mike Dunham. "I would have retired if I did that."

Unfortunately those first game heroics did not last long for Fountain. He played 5 more games with Vancouver that season, winning 1 and losing 2 and that was it.

He played one game with Carolina and two with Ottawa over the next few years.  Otherwise he played in the minors until 2001, then headed over seas for several more years.



Gary Smith: Suitcase

In 1973, the Vancouver Canucks traded their original franchise player to get a lanky goalie with a reputation of being a bit on the flakey side. The goalie nicknamed "The Suitcase" not only became a fan favorite, but turned out to be one of the best players ever to wear Vancouver Canucks uniform.

"Suitcase's" 6 shutouts in 1974-75 remains a Canuck record.

In 1973 the Canucks traded the original Canuck, talented defensman Dale Tallon to the Chicago Blackhawks for Gary Smith, who in 1972 shared the Vezina Trophy with teammate Tony Esposito. Right from the inaugural press conference introducing Smith to Vancouver it was quickly evident he was an outgoing charismatic star Canuck fans would love.

"Everything you heard about me is true, I am a great goaltender" Smith announced as his first words to Canuck faithful. While it was obviously tongue in cheek, it was just a sign of things to come.

Smith was known for his stickhandling adventures in an attempt to become the first goaltender to score a goal. He would often stickhandle past his own blueline, yet his efforts were never rewarded. Another unrealized ambition of Smith's was to punt the puck over the scoreboard in Maple Leaf Gardens. While he never actually kicked it that high, it was an odd site in deed to see the goalie kicking the puck out of his own zone. He is also legendary for his famous late nights and partying.

Smith might of had a blast playing in the NHL, but no one survives 14 NHL seasons and 532 games without delivering. That's what Smith did best in the Canucks old green, blue and white uniform.

His first season in Vancouver he played 65 contests, winning 20 of the Canucks 24 wins that season. The following season was easily Smith's best, as he and the Canucks had their first winning season and were for the first time a legitimate NHL team.

The team had 38 wins to capture their first Smythe Division championship, and Smith was the key. He played in 72 of the 80 games, with a record of 32-24-9. His 6 shutouts that season is still a team record. He finished 5th in Hart Trophy balloting that season.

Hall of Fame broadcaster Jim Robson still thinks Smith perhaps should have won the Hart that year. The Canucks played above their heads that season and the next both they and their star goalie became victims of their own success.

Unable to live up to their incredible run in 1974-74, the team still managed to finish above .500 but Smith's GAA ballooned from a team record 3.09 to a personal high of 3.50. He went 20-24-6 that season, which would prove to be his final in Vancouver.

That summer GM Phil Maloney traded Smith for Trail B.C. native Cesare Maniago. There is a story out there that one of the main reasons for his dismissal was his antics at a Christmas part. Smith got very drunk at a Canucks Christmas party. He was introduced to owner Frank Griffiths Sr.'s wife and was informed that her father was Dr. Ballard of the dog food company fame. Smith replied that he "could see the family resemblance from the can!"

Smith, who also played with (hence the nickname "Suitcase Smith" Toronto, Oakland, California, Minnesota, Washington, Winnipeg (as well as a two-team, one year stint in the WHA) would retire in 1980. He was a great goalie who never had a chance to play for a good team. But one thing is for sure: few players enjoyed life in the NHL like Gary Smith.



Tyler Bouck

Prince George, BC, was a fun place to watch some hockey in the late 1990s and early 2000s. The WHL Cougars junior team had such a big defence, with the likes Zdeno Chara, Eric Brewer, Joel Kwiatkowski and Derek Boogaard, who played a lot on the blue line back then. They all went on to the NHL. Chara would prove to be the best, but Smithers, BC native Dan Hamhuis, another future NHLer, came a long a bit after those giants and probably proved to be the best defenseman to play in PG.

Another really popular player back then was a forward named Tyler Bouck. Like the pulp mill town itself, Bouck was a blue collar hustler and grinder and the fans adored his work ethic. His jersey would be seen in store windows hanging with pride.

And with good reason. Not only did he represent PG, but also Canada. Twice he represented Canada at the World Juniors, winning a silver in 1999 and a bronze in 2000.

Dallas drafted Bouck 57th overall in 1998. In his professional rookie season he played with the Stars for 48 games, but barely made an impact with just 2 goals. The next season he was traded to Phoenix, but only played 7 games with them. He was destined for the minor leagues.

At the time the young Bouck did not know how to handle the adversity, but it was a great life lesson for him.

"It's frustrating because I started the year with Dallas my first year and kind of expected big things," he said. "And that didn't happen. As a young guy, that was tough to get over. You just have to keep going and work through it.

"When I first got sent down . . . it bugged me and affected my game. Now, I just try to put that out of my mind and control what I can control. You go to the rink the same every day. It's a job that's better than going to work nine to five someplace. You can't complain no matter where you're playing."

Bouck never quit working, and it paid off when the Vancouver Canucks acquired him late in 2001 as part of a deal that saw Todd Warriner and Trevor Letowski join the team for Drake Berehowsky and Denis Pederson. Bouck would find a home with the Canucks farm team in Manitoba, proving to be a popular player in Winnipeg

But Bouck would also get a chance to return to the NHL, playing in parts of three seasons with the Canucks 4th line. He would diligently patrol his wing, hit hard when he was on the forecheck and even answered the bell a couple of times. Ultimately he was not the most memorable or even appreciated player in Canucks history, but he did a good job under the circumstances. He even chipped in a couple of goals.

He made favorable impressions among his teammates.

"I really like the way he plays," veteran Canuck Trevor Linden said. "Aggressive forechecker, likes to hit, good skater, has some skill. He's my type of player."

Bouck kept a great perspective on his job with the Canucks.

"I think the biggest thing I want to do is just make sure I'm noticed out there by getting hits and using my speed and letting them know I want to be here," Bouck said. "Most likely I will go back down to Manitoba, but I want them to know that I'm a guy they can call on."

The years in the Canucks organization were not necessarily easy for Bouck. When he first arrived he battled a devastating groin injury. When he got healthier flashier prospects seemed to get the call-ups, and the Canucks team depth limited the opportunities to play.

"It is frustrating when you don't get those chances," Bouck said. "But you're always going to work hard and try to impress them to get that shot. You question yourself and what you've got to do. It's tough because you can look at other teams and places and say: 'Maybe I'd fit in there or fit in there.' But it doesn't really matter because I'm a Vancouver Canuck and there's no point looking at other teams and thinking where you'd fit in because there's no chance to go to those places. You play the hand your dealt and that's what I'm doing."

Bouck never really did stick in the NHL. Which was too bad, because he was a good guy. He was a poor man's Adam Graves, which was probably by design. As an 11 year old Bouck had a chance to caddy for Graves at an Edmonton Oilers charity golf tournament. Graves took a liking to the kid and always kept in touch with him and even trained with him in the summer times. Bouck was very much Graves' understudy.

Bouck was always appreciative of Graves.

"Would I be here without him? Probably not," said Bouck. "He showed me what it took to be at this level."

In 91 NHL games Tyler Bouck scored 4 goals and 12 points. He returned to the minor leagues following his last stint in Vancouver. He then headed to Europe to extend his professional career, joining Ingolstadt of the German league.


Jason King

Jason King will forever go down in hockey history as a member of the Mattress Line. That's what they called the line of Daniel and Henrik Sedin and rookie Jason King in 2003-04 season. Two twins and a King, get it?

The native of Cornerbrook, Newfoundland was a likeable forward with good hands around the net. He had a strong junior career with the Halifax Mooseheads of the QMJHL, but he was a late bloomer. He never even bothered going to his own NHL draft, figuring he would not get picked at all.

But the Canucks took a chance on King in the 7th round, taking him 212th overall. A lot of kids would be discouraged to be drafted so late, but King was delighted.

“When Vancouver selected me, I was thrilled. I was very happy it was a Canadian team. I knew I would have to work harder than I ever had before, but I was definitely looking forward to the challenge. I just tried to keep a positive outlook.”

King always had a mature ability to remain calm and patient when facing hurdles, and it served him well in a 9 year professional career, including stops in Anaheim and Europe.

The right-winger dedicated himself the rest of the summer and erupted with a final QMJHL season where he was virtually unstoppable, scoring 63 times in 61 games, ending the campaign with 99 points, along with another 17 in 13 post-season contests.

Suddenly he was on the prospect radar, but he remained level-headed about his future.
“A lot of things still had to fall in place,” he said. “All I could do was play my best hockey. If I did that, I really couldn't be too disappointed.”

In 2002-03, King had his first taste of NHL action, albeit briefly, appearing in eight games with the Canucks, posting two assists. The right-winger spent the majority of the season with Manitoba of the American Hockey League, notching 20 goals in 67 games with the Moose.

That performance prompted Vancouver to give King a legitimate shot at cracking the line-up in 2003, a tough challenge for any aspiring NHLer, even more so when you consider the talent quotient on the Canucks.

Knowing it was the break he had always hoped for, King didn't give the organization much of an option in determining his fate, performing strongly throughout camp, holding his own against such stout scorers as 2003 Lester B. Pearson Award winner Markus Naslund and premiere power forward Todd Bertuzzi.

The result? A well deserved spot on the roster.

Simply making the grade, however, wasn't enough for King, who would eventually team up with the Sedin twins, Henrik and Daniel, to form a dangerous trio at both ends of the rink.

“I definitely wanted to fit in and contribute and it's worked out well so far. I think the three of us bring something different to the rink. We really work well off one another. They're great at cycling the puck and that really gives me some good chances to put the puck in the net.”

The line was definitely fit for a King. Though their tenure together was brief, King was one of the very first wingers to benefit from playing with the brilliant Sedin twins.

King would spend the lockout season with the Canucks farm team in Manitoba. When the NHL finally returned a year later, King would not find a roster spot on the deep Canucks team. He was destined for another year in the minor leagues.

"I just have to keep playing as hard as I can and capitalize on my opportunities. I have to believe I will get another opportunity."

King did get another opportunity, though it was not with the Canucks. In the summer of 2007 the Canucks traded King to Anaheim for an undersized speedster named Ryan Shannon.

King would play just 4 games with the Ducks that season, spending the rest of the year in the minors. He jumped at a chance to earn bigger money playing in Germany.


Artem Chubarov

Most Canadian hockey fans would have pegged Artem Chubarov as a rising offensive star after his performance in the gold medal game at the 1999 IIHF World Junior Hockey Championships in Winnipeg. Chubarov potted two goals for Team Russia, including the winner at 5:13 of overtime, in a 3-2 victory over Canada.

The following season those thoughts quickly disappeared. In his first NHL season with the Vancouver Canucks, Chubarov scored just 1 goal (and 10 points) in 49 games.

Now he did face a large adjustment, both on the smaller ice surface and to live in North American altogether. Chubarov admitted it was a tough year for himself, especially since he was still a kid.

Chubarov was never going to be an offensive superstar. But he had promise as a classic Russian centerman. The lanky pivot had a superb understanding of the defensive game and, in time, displayed quiet brilliance distributing the puck for offensive transitions. He was a very intelligent player, much like his idol Igor "The Professor" Larionov.

After a season of apprenticing in the minors, the Canucks brought Chubarov back and used him as a defensive specialist for 3 seasons. He was a big piece of the Canucks strong penalty kill unit at the time. He was also the team's best face-off man and was used for big defensive zone puck drops.

With the Canucks big West Coast Express line of Markus Naslund, Todd Bertuzzi and Brendan Morrison leading the way, and the young Sedins being apprenticed in the second line role, Chubarov never did get much of a chance to contribute in a more offensive way, which is unfortunate as he probably could have served as an excellent third line center or be pigeon-holed into the second line role. He only scored 25 goals in his short career, but he made them count. His first four goals were game winners - the first player in NHL history to accomplish that.

Ultimately Chubarov's NHL career was a short one. In 2004 he passed on the Canucks qualifying contract offer and headed home to Russia to play in the KHL. He never came back and was more or less never heard from again, at least in North America.

Whether he was homesick or not I do not know, but his disappearance was mysterious in one way. Stories surfaced that Chubarov was in such a hurry to leave Vancouver that he simply left his car at his player's underground parking spot at the arena. It stayed the for months before the Canucks finally had it removed. Whatever happened to the Chubarov's car we may never know!

One thing I do know - Artem Chubarov will go down as one of the more under-appreciated players in Canucks history.



Neil Belland

Neil Belland was a part time defenseman with the Vancouver Canucks during the 1980s. He played 109 games in his career, scoring 13 goals, 32 assists and 45 points.

Belland was a skilled puck mover and mobile skater, but had trouble handling the bigger NHL forwards. On more than a couple of occasions Edmonton's Mark Messier unceremoniously running right over the 180 pound Belland, funky moustache and all.

Belland was a late bloomer. Never drafted, the Canucks signed him in 1980 and let him develop in junior with the Kingston Canadiens.

Belland turned pro in 1981-82, and played really well in the minor leagues. With injuries decimating the Canucks blue line he was called up and surprised many with his solid play. In fact Belland dressed for all 17 of the Canucks playoff games as the advanced all the way to the Stanley Cup final for the first time in franchise history.

Expectations for Belland were greatly elevated after that strong rookie campaign, and he never really lived up to them. Over the next four season Belland was up and down between the Canucks and minor leagues, never really cementing a full time job with the Canucks notoriously weak blue line.

In 1993, while playing his fifth season of pro hockey in Austria, Belland suffered a serious injury to his right hand when an errant skate sliced him so severely that he had to retire. He tried his hand (no pun intended) at coaching before becoming a constable with the Toronto city police.



Trevor Linden

Before you read this, I must confess: Trevor Linden may be my favorite player of all time.

I grew up watching hockey on the west coast in the 1980s. The Edmonton Oilers reigned supreme back then, and Wayne Gretzky was everybody's favorite. I also had a serious infatuation with Soviet hockey players long before they were allowed to play in the NHL.

I quickly became a pretty sophisticated fan of the entire league. And I've always had the history bug, allowing me to respect the legends that preceded my time.

But I was always a Vancouver Canucks fan, which was anything but easy for most of the 1980s. It was not until Trevor Linden's arrival that I finally had someone to truly admire. No disrespect to Tony Tanti, my other favorite Canuck of the 80s, but in so many ways Trevor Linden became the player I admired most.

In comparison to Gretzky and the Soviets, Linden may seem an odd choice. Linden was not flashy or high skilled, not a great scorer or a flawless skater. He was essentially a hard worker, the personification of selflessness, an unquantifiable hockeyist who excelled in intangibles, effort and class.

He was also a great person - the kind of person we all want to be. Perhaps that drew me to him as much as his hockey. His charity efforts, his tireless effort on the ice, and his genuine likability off of it.

I had first heard of Trevor Linden back when he was still in junior. Not being located anywhere near a WHL team at the time, Linden may have been the first junior superstar I had really learned of. So when Linden came to Vancouver, so too did a lot hope, at least in my heart.

I was not disappointed. And, by no small coincidence, probably for the first time in my adolescence of hockey, I truly realized just how much I loved this game.

Eye of the Tigers

Trevor Linden was drafted 2nd overall in the 1988 entry draft after leading his hometown Medicine Hat Tigers to 2 consecutive Memorial Cup Championships. He also played a major part as an international member of Canada's gold medal-winning team at 1988 World Junior Championships.

The following season Trevor not only made the NHL, but was an instant success. As the youngest player in the entire league, Linden would play a dogged physical game while setting a then-team rookie record of 30 goals, including a couple of hat tricks. His trophy case quickly filled as he won the Cyclone Taylor award (Canucks MVP- first rookie to win) and Molson Cup (most three star selections). He was also named as The Hockey News' rookie of the year, however he finished as runner-up to Brian Leetch for the NHL's Calder Trophy.

The 1989-90 saw Trevor slip slightly into the dreaded "sophomore jinx." The season was ended with a separated shoulder injury. Trevor recorded 20 goals and 31 assists.

The 1990-91 season saw him rebound as he was named as one of the 'tri-captains' with Dan Quinn and Stan Smyl, whom Linden credited, along with Harold Snepsts, as his mentor. One of his best nights of his career occurred on Dec 20 vs. Edmonton when he scored 6 points (3 goals, 3 assists) in one game. Linden was also the youngest player at the NHL all star game. Although the Canucks missed the playoffs, Trevor was asked to represent Canada at World Championships in Finland and was also invited to Team Canada tryouts at Canada Cup '91.

Captain Canuck

Before the beginning of the 1991-92 season, Linden was named as the new team captain, making him the youngest captain in the National Hockey League. The 21 year old Linden would go on to lead the team in scoring for the 2nd straight year. It also was the first season of Canuck dominance. Captain Canuck guided the team to a 42-26-12 record. The 96 points gave the Canucks their first Smythe Division title since 1975. The following season Linden would lead the team to another 1st place finish based on a 46-29-9 record for the team's first 100+ point season.

The 1994 Stanley Cup

Linden led the Canucks to the team's greatest moment in 1994 - game 7 of the Stanley Cup Finals. After a relatively disappointing 85 point, 2nd place finish, the Canucks caught fire in the playoffs. After falling behind 3-1 in the opening round against Calgary, the Canucks stormed back to win 4 games to 3 and then would blow by Dallas and Toronto to face Mark Messier, Mike Keenan and the New York Rangers. Lead by Linden's leadership and physical play, Pavel Bure's goal scoring and Kirk McLean's incredible goaltending, the Canucks took the Rangers to 7 games. The final game was as close as could possibly be. Had Nathan Lafeyette's third period shot hit the inside of the goalpost instead of the outside, perhaps the Canucks could have forced overtime. Unfortunately, the Canucks would lose game 7 by a score of 3 goals to 2, both scored by Trevor Linden.

The iconic photograph of an exhausted and bloodied Trevor Linden congratulating Kirk McLean after a victory in Game 6 remains the quintessential image of the franchise. Linden was literally beat up in that Finals, playing with bruised badly damaged ribs that made it hard to get up and down, let alone battle for the Stanley Cup. Mark Messier inflicted more pain when he attacked Linden late in Game 6, drawing blood with a high stick before turning back to drive his stick into Linden's ribs. Somehow all of that went unnoticed by the refs and league, while Linden crawled in agonizing pain back to the bench.

But there was never any doubting Linden would lead the Canucks into battle in game 7.

"He'll play! You know he'll play," exclaimed the Canucks beloved radio announcer Jim Robson. It may be the most famous audio clip in Canucks history.

Play he did. He set the tone physically and scoring both Vancouver goals that night. He played so well he was even named as the first star of that game seven. Trevor Linden had undoubtedly earned the respect of everyone in hockey. Unfortunately the New York Rangers would win that game. The pain of the loss that night was far worse than cracked ribs and broken noses.

Mr. Nice Guy

1995-96 would prove to be Trevor's best season statistically as he would set career highs in goals (33) assists (47) and points (80). But as anyone who knows Trevor, his value is not determined by statistical output, but rather by intangibles.

At the conclusion of the season, Linden was named the winner of the King Clancy Memorial Trophy as "the player who best exemplifies leadership qualities on and off the ice and has made noteworthy humanitarian contributions to his community." Linden started "Captain's Crew," which gave children who would not otherwise have the chance the opportunity to attend Canuck games. He also is a big supporter of Canuck Place hospice, the Ronald McDonald House, Youth Against Violence and Children's Hospital. Linden would also win the Gillette World Champion Award, given to the Canadian athlete demonstrating athletic excellence, sportsmanship and humanitarian contributions.

1996-97 was a tough season for Linden, and marked the downward trend in his career. The season started out great as he was part of the World Cup version of Team Canada. The disappointing loss to the Americans was just the first of several disappointments for Linden. His league leading ironman streak came to a finish, at 482 games as Trevor was seriously injured (knee) for first time in his career. The injury meant he would produce career lows in goals (9), points (40) and penalty minutes (27).

Goodbye, Trevor

1997-98 saw the arrival of Mark Messier, considered by many to be the greatest captain in North American sports, although Canucks fan would come to doubt that. As a sign of true leadership, Trevor handed the team captaincy over to Mark Messier prior to start of season. To hand over something so important and so honored as the captaincy of a NHL team shows that Linden was more concerned with the good of the team than his own ego.

Trevor would wind up with a nagging groin injury that Mike Keenan would conveniently use that to place Linden in his famous doghouse, and soon traded Linden, once thought to be the most untouchable Canuck, to the New York Islanders in exchange for Brian McCabe, Todd Bertuzzi and a draft pick.

One day after being traded, Linden headed to Nagano as a member of the first ever Olympic Team Canada that included the top 25 Canadian born NHL players. Linden would score the only goal in Canada's disappointing loss to Dominik Hasek and the Czech Republic.

Linden was named captain of the New York Islanders after only 4 games on Long Island. Just weeks later Linden would become president of the National Hockey League Players Association.

Trevor would get into some hot water soon after becoming president of the NHLPA as he signed what many considered to be an undervalued contract of $2.5 million US a season, the same money he made on his previous contract. Linden's unconventional decision was looked upon with pleasant surprise by hockey fans everywhere. In an era when more and more hockey players hold out demanding millions and millions of dollars, Linden was comfortable with what he had and just wanted to play hockey. However because he was president of the NHLPA, it created unrest among union breakers.

Trevor's stay on Long Island was ultimately short, which was a good thing for Trevor. With a joke for ownership, the Islanders were simply dumping salary after salary and it was clear they had no intention of icing a competitive hockey team. Linden was traded to the fabled Montreal Canadiens in exchange for the Habs 1st round pick in 1999, 10th overall.

While Linden endured tumultuous times as a member of the Islanders, having to cope with several off-ice disruptions, including disputes over ownership and problems with the team’s home arena, the forward still has some regrets in leaving the club.

At one time Linden was the NHL's active consecutive games played leader, but injuries continue to haunt Linden in Montreal. A severe ankle injury hindered his play for much of the season. As a result, he had another poor offensive season with another weak team.

Linden, a natural right winger, was shifted to center ice later in his career in Vancouver and has played there ever since. He excelled on face-offs and was usually in sound defensive position, but the move changed his game immensely. He was much more physical on right wing. Moving up and down the wall, Linden excelled by hitting and banging. He was always at his best when he was playing physically. However at center ice, Linden did not get the chance to play the same physical game, as he remained disciplined and rarely strayed from the middle of the ice, so that he was not caught out of position should the other team get the puck. This defensive discipline also hurt Trevor's offensive output. He no longer drove to the net as hard as he would if he were on the wing, again sacrificing his offensive output so that someone remains high to help out the defensemen.

Return of the hero

Linden was moved from Montreal to Washington before Brian Burke brought the Canucks' prodigal son back to Vancouver in November 2001. The one-time poster boy returned to Vancouver a hero, but accepted his diminishing status as a role player. Goals and ice time became harder to come by, but fan loyalty only grew.

Even through the tumultuous times as president of the NHLPA, Trevor Linden was always well respected around the NHL. Though his legacy with the NHLPA is somewhat stained by the Ted Saskin hiring, it was Linden who was a driving force to get the two sides to the negotiating table several times during the lost season of 2004-05. History has already overlooked the contributions of Linden during this terrible chapter in the story of hockey.

A Hockey Player's Hockey Player

On the ice he was the kind of player who's true value can never really be measured by any statistic. Rest assured those on the ice, friend and foe, had great respect for Linden's intricate abilities. He was never a great scorer but always did the small things so extremely well - a big reason for his playoff success. Linden was a big game player. In the big games it is those intangible things - faceoffs, defensive excellence, physical but disciplined play, always making the safe if unspectacular play - that make the difference between winning and losing. He was a hockey player's hockey player.

Mike Brophy wrote in The Hockey News a spectacularly wonderful article on Trevor. I'd like to share a small portion of it here:

Linden believes it is attention to detail that has helped him excel.

"People always tell me I'm a great playoff performer," Linden says, "and the only reason I can think that is, is because in the playoffs doing the little things right counts the most."

Watch Linden closely and you won't be blown away by any particular skill; his conviction and determination are his strengths. He doesn't have the hardest shot in the league, yet the puck doesn't flutter when he snaps it towards the gal. He is a deceptively fast skater. In a race for the puck, an opponent might look like he's skating quicker, but Linden often gets there first using a long, fluent stride."

You have to watch his game closely to truly appreciate his excellence. Trevor Linden was a leader. Trevor Linden was a winner. He was a winner even though he never did get to lift the Stanley Cup over his head. For many of us, the pain of 1994 endures to this day. Yet somehow, for me anyways, it is still the greatest moment in Canucks history. I would not change a thing, not even the ending. The Vancouver Canucks did not win the Stanley Cup that year. But they forever won our respect, and here in Canuckland they are immortalized for it.


Kirk McLean

In less than one season Roberto Luongo has pretty much everyone agreeing he is the greatest Canucks goaltender of all time. There is little doubt that "Bobby Lou" is truly something special, but my favorite Canucks goaltender of all time remains, for a little bit longer anyways, Kirk McLean.

Utilizing his big size, Captain Kirk was one of the last classic stand up goalies to succeed in the National Hockey League. Canucks radio colour commentator Tom Larscheid described him best: "He's like one of those bubble hockey goalies, always standing perfectly straight and just letting the puck hit him."

His stand up style was ideal for his big frame, although in some ways his style made him unappreciated. While other goalies were acrobatically turning away pucks, "Mac" made all saves look routine by just getting in the way of it and making sure the rebound was under control. To the novice fan it looked routine, even boring, but to the hardcore fan it was a pleasure to watch one of the last great stand up goalies.

One of the coolest customers you'll ever meet, McLean seemed unflappable, even in the early years with Vancouver when the team was extremely weak. He had a tremendous glove hand, which made up for vulnerabilities to the low posts. He also loved to handle the puck, usually in the far corner of the rink in what is now part of the restricted zone. He would almost without fail deke out an oncoming forechecker by faking a puck dump behind the net and around to the other corner, but then pull back with a backhanded flip the other way, usually to a waiting Canucks defenseman.

Growing up in Toronto, McLean grew up idolizing Bernie Parent and Jacques Plante, as well as Dave Keon. He began playing in net at age 7, and before you know it he was the number one goalie with the OHL's Oshawa Generals. The New Jersey Devils were impressed, and drafted him 107th overall in the 1984 NHL Entry Draft.

McLean would turn pro and apprentice in the minor leagues in 1986-87. He'd appear in 4 games with the Devils, who were loaded with good young goaltenders at the time. The Devils had always lacked great goaltending and had stockpiled on goaltending prospects. With Sean Burke, Craig Billington, Alain Chevrier and Chris Terreri all emerging as NHLers at relatively the same time, the Devils decided to move McLean in exchange for help up front.

The deal was good for both teams, but especially for Vancouver over the long haul. The Canucks moved creative center Patrik Sundstrom to the Devils in exchange for McLean, and B.C. boy Greg Adams. It was one of the first moves the new Pat Quinn-Brian Burke regime would make, and proved to be a turning point in Canucks history.

McLean quickly proved he was ready for the NHL. After battling in training camp with veterans Steve Weeks, Frank Caprice and most notably long time fan favorite "King Richard" Brodeur, "Mac" emerged as the number one goalie. Adding to the pressure of being counted on game in and game out was the fact that the Canucks ended up trading Brodeur away to make room for McLean. The unproven goaltender replaced the local legend and had to prove his worth before a very watchful fan base and media.

McLean played in 41 games that first year, winning just 11 with a very weak Canucks team. His numbers improved to 20 wins in 42 contests the following year. He extended he is season by representing Canada at the World Hockey Championships. While locals knew McLean was something special, soon the rest of the league would find out for themselves.

In 1989-90, the Canucks were still struggling, but with McLean and a young Trevor Linden leading the way, the future looked bright. McLean played in 63 games that season, winning just 21. But his value to the team was recognized throughout the league when he was named a finalist in league voting for goaltender of the year. He was also invited to his first NHL all star game and was named NHL player of the week in March.

As the Canucks got better, McLean emerged as one of the league's best. In 1991-92 he won a a league high 38 games in 65 contests. His GAA was an impressive 2.74 and he posted 5 shutouts, another league high. He was named to the NHL's second all star team. He would finish second behind Patrick Roy in voting for the Vezina Trophy as the league's top netminder.

Kirk McLean, like most of the Canucks of that era, will always be remembered for his play in the 1994 playoffs. The team struggled through an underachieving regular season, but backed by the brilliance of McLean's puckstopping went all the way to game 7 of the Stanley Cup finals before finally bowing to the New York Rangers.

McLean's signature moment came in round one against Calgary. With the team clawing it's way back from a 3 games to 1 deficit, the Canucks forced overtime in game 7. In the extra frame McLean robbed Flames' sniper Robert Reichal with a sliding, pad-stacked toe save that to this day is considered the single most important save of the Canucks history.

But McLean was never better than in game one of the Stanley Cup finals in New York. The Rangers heavily outplayed the underdog Canucks, but McLean, in his classic stand-up style, committed one of the grandest larcenies in the history of Manhattan. His 52 save performance, including 17 in overtime, remains one of the most impressive games I've ever seen a goaltender play. In a game where the Rangers could have blown out the Canucks, McLean kept the score 2-2 into over time where Greg Adams, McLean's trade accompaniant from New Jersey 7 years prior, scored the game winning goal at 19:26 of the first over time.

As magical as that spring was, the entire Canucks team could not recapture it and would soon fall apart. McLean struggled to adjust to the butterfly goaltending stance that was now seemingly the only acceptable strategy. He was doubly distracted by his divorce.

Despite his all star status and tremendous resume, perhaps history will always remember Kirk McLean as the goalie who gave up Wayne Gretzky's record breaking 802nd NHL goal. On March 23rd, 1994, Gretzky broke Gordie Howe's all time NHL scoring record with a power play marker in a 6-3 loss to the Canucks. McLean had no chance on the play, but will undoubtedly be forever immortalized in hockey trivia games.

Like all members of that Canucks team, McLean was soon moved out in a dismantling process by the new Canucks regime. McLean was moved to Carolina in exchange for, somewhat ironically, Sean Burke, the goalie who ended winning the Devils net job back in the late 1980s. McLean left as the Canucks all time leader in wins, shutouts and games played by a goaltender.

Sadly McLean bounced around the league, landing later in Florida and then the Rangers before retiring in 2001. By the end he may have been a shadow of his old self, his stand up style now a NHL antique. But to Vancouver fans of the early 1990s, Captain Kirk will always be #1.


Pavel Bure

Pavel Bure was the most electrifying new generation hockey player of the dead puck era. While the likes of Jaromir Jagr, Dominik Hasek, Paul Kariya and Eric Lindros were all amazing hockey players, it was Bure had the rare ability to pull the fans out of their seats seemingly every time he touches the puck. Every goal the Russian Rocket scored and every rush he lifted off on was truly an event on to itself.

No one loved to score goals as much as Pavel Bure. Even in practice he wanted to see the twine bulge. In that sense Bure ranks as one of the greatest pure goal scorers in hockey history. Names like Mike Bossy and Rocket Richard are fair comparisons.

Bure is nicknamed the Russian Rocket because of his incredible speed. Few players could match his foot speed, but what makes Bure so special is he could carry the puck at top speed. Most players just push the puck in front of them as they break down the wing; Bure is capable of deking through a top defenseman without losing steam. Sometimes he even dropped the puck into his feet to kick it by the blueliner, and then accelerate by him to get in alone. He was truly a magnificent player to watch, and you often watched with your jaw hanging open.

Vancouver fans still remember his first game. He did not score any goals that night, and the game was not even televised. But fans stayed up late to watch the late night highlights and were absolutely awed by this kids speed and flash and dash. Finally, after years of wallowing, Vancouver had a superstar.

Though small by NHL standards, Bure was built like a rock, blessed with great strength and balance. He had legs like tree trunks that powered his scary speed. He had an arsenal of goal scoring tricks. His wrist shot was lethal, as was his slap shot. But most of all he loved to deke.

Pavel also had a nasty streak him and would not take anything from bigger players. Just ask Shane Churla. Churla, a noted NHL roughian, was giving Pavel a hard time in one particular game. Pavel took only so much before he caught Churla with an infamous blind hit and a vicious elbow. It was not Bure's prettiest moment, but he gained respect because he let the NHL know he would not take such abuse without retaliation.

Pavel played the game with reckless abandon, particularly if he sensed an opportunity to crash to the net and score a goal. He was seemingly fearless even after injuries began taking their toll on his body.

One area that his coaches would have liked Bure to do more of was use his linemates better. Too often Bure tried to go through the entire opposition by himself. Sometimes he actually did it, and every time it was an event. But Bure was a good passer, underrated even, and the team would have been better off if Bure would have been a little less selfish at times. He was also knocked for his defensive play.

"Pasha" was drafted in the sixth round of the 1989 NHL Entry Draft, 113th overall, by the Vancouver Canucks. It would turn out to be a controversial pick at that time because no 18 year old could be drafted after the third round unless he had played more than ten games in 2 seasons in a major junior league. The NHL Media Guide stated that Pavel had only played 5 games the year before, but Mike Penny (the Canucks' Chief Scout) discovered proof in the form of score sheets which had recorded that Pavel had played 11 games in that previous year.

At the age of 16, Pavel joined the Red Army to play with the best hockey players in Russia at that time, including the popular KLM line (Vladimir Krutov, Igor Larionov, and Sergei Makarov). It was with that team also that he met Sergei Federov and Alexander Mogilny. Together, they formed one of the best lines in the world. They were being groomed to carry on the tradition of the KLM line in the old Soviet regime, prior to the fall of communism and the opening of NHL gates to former Soviet hockey players.

Pavel played in the World Junior Championships for three years where he scored 27 goals and 12 assists for a total of 39 points in just 21 games. In 1989 and 1990 he won the gold medal, and in 1991 just before joining the Canucks, he won the silver medal. In 1989 he was named the Soviet League Rookie of the Year.

As a kid the thought of a Russian in the NHL was so remote that Bure never dreamed of North American glory. He dreamed of playing with the mighty Soviet national team, like his idols Boris Mikhailov and Valeri Kharlamov.

"I never dreamed about the NHL. Growing up I didn’t hear too many things about it. North America was like a different planet. Kinda like something you read about but a place you never thought you’d go. It was my dream to be a part of the national team and win an Olympic medal because my father went to three Games and didn’t win a gold. My biggest dream was for me and my brother to go to the Olympics and win a gold for the family."

By the early 1990s Soviet players were being allowed to join the NHL, though the Russian federation tried their best to keep young stars like Bure. Tempted by the large contracts of professional hockey, Bure became disenchanted with his contract from the CSKA. Along with his father, an Olympic swimmer and younger brother and future NHLer Valeri, he slipped off to North America to start his new life with the National Hockey League’s Vancouver Canucks.
Pavel came to Vancouver 15 games into the 1991-92 season. With his explosive rushes, his first game remains one of the most talked about nights in Vancouver hockey history. Bure instantly became the NHL's most electrifying player, as he would score 34 times while adding 26 helpers en route to winning the Calder Memorial Trophy as the best rookie.

The following season the Russian Rocket lifted off to a new stratosphere, scoring 60 goals while adding 50 assists and being named a NHL First Team All Star.

In 1993-94 he scored 60 goals for the second-straight year, making him the eighth player in NHL history to accomplish that feat (the other players to do that were Phil Esposito, Mike Bossy, Jari Kurri, Wayne Gretzky, Steve Yzerman, Brett Hull, and Mario Lemieux). This time he led the league with his 60 markers. During the unforgettable Stanley Cup run of the 1994 playoffs, Pavel led the team in scoring with 31 points. He also led the entire league in playoff goals with 16, none bigger than the game 7 overtime goal against the Calgary Flames to advance the Canucks to the second round.

The following season was a difficult season for the entire NHL and most of its players as the season was shortened due to a labour dispute. Pavel only managed 20 goals and 43 points in 44 games. Yet it was nowhere as near as difficult as the next two seasons.

1995-96 was supposed to be the great rejoining of perhaps the league's most dangerous duo - Pavel Bure and newly acquired Alexander Mogilny. Unfortunately only 15 games into the season Pavel Bure's ACL ligament was severely damaged while playing against the Chicago Blackhawks when he was taken down behind the net by opponent Steve Smith. Pavel's season was over, and a career long history of knee troubles began.

The 1996-97 season saw Pavel return for 63 games but only muster 23 goals and 55 points. During the season people wondered if the Russian Rocket would ever return to his former glory. Following the conclusion of the disappointing season it became known that Pavel had played much of the schedule with a severe case of whiplash, and perhaps should have sat out part of that season as well.

Any doubts about Bure's ability to return to his style of explosive speed, all out recklessness and goal scoring clinics were answered in the 1997-98 season, as Bure teamed up with Mark Messier to score 51 times while tying for 3rd over all in league scoring.

Bure, who had notified the Canucks he wished to be traded as early as the 1995-96 season, finally demanded a trade by sitting out the start of the 1998-99 season. Bure sat out despite being scheduled to make $8 million US citing reasons such as not enough privacy in a small, Canadian market, a variety of disputes with management and a desire to play with a winning team.

The trade finally came on January 17, 1999 as Brian Burke trade him to the Florida Panthers. Bure, Brett Hedican, Brad Ference and a 3rd round pick went to the Sunshine State in exchange for Ed Jovanovski, Dave Gagner, Mike Brown, Kevin Weekes and a 1st round pick.

Bure's stay in Florida started out a bit rocky, as he re-injured his damaged knee. However Bure again rehabilitated his knee and by the 1999-2000 season reestablished himself as one of the league's top players. As far as blue line in was concerned, Pavel Bure was the most electrifying goal scorer of the modern era was back. He ranked first in the NHL with 58 goals, capturing the newly minted Maurice "Rocket" Richard Trophy. He was also selected as a finalist for both the Hart Memorial Trophy and the Lester B. Pearson Award as the NHL's most valuable player. He was also MVP of a memorable All Star game. 

His 2000-2001 season was equally as impressive. Again he ranked first in the NHL in goals with 59. He set a NHL record by tallying 29.5% of his team's goals for the season. 

Bure slowed in the 2001-02 season, scoring just 22 times in the Panthers first 56 games. The financially strapped Panthers were going nowhere, despite Pavel's best efforts, and the team simply could not afford a $10,000,000 salary. They dumped his contract to the New York Rangers in exchange for prospects and draft picks.

Reunited with Mark Messier, Bure's career was rejuvenated in Manhattan. He ended the season with 12 goals in 12 games, but the Rangers still missed the playoffs. 

While Bure with the Rangers promised to be one of the best shows on Broadway in recent years, Bure's knee injuries returned and robbed him of his career. He would play only 39 more games in the NHL. He finished with 437 goals, most of the of the highlight reel variety, and 779 points in 702 games.

Although he lived the good life in North America, Bure's love for Russia never waned. Throughout his playing career he remained a strong supporter of the Russian national team. He represented Russia in two Olympics, capturing silver in 1998 and bronze in 2002. After his playing days were over, he was the surprise choice as manager of the 2006 Olympic team. With his stature in Russia as one of the true legends of hockey, it was hoped Bure's stature could convince the fractured Russian national team to put aside their differences and play for their country. Despite a good showing, Russia finished out of the medals.

Bure was a mysterious character too. A book called The Riddle of the Russian Rocket published in 1999 detailed several oddities about Pavel. Pavel, a very private person, is known for, among other things, a very public dispute with Sergei Fedorov over mutual girlfriend model/tennis player and Anna Kournikova, and for hanging out with some of Russia's top mobsters, most notably Anzor Kikalishvili.


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