Tuesday

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.

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