Look at Steve, hustlin’ down that ice
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The first in a special summer series, CanucksArmy.com author Patrick Johnston will write whatever comes to mind about a random Canucks hero. What is a hero? Patrick’s criteria is super secret, but maybe, just maybe, if you pay close attention, you’ll figure it out!
Nearly the first in a long line of try-hards that I came like for one reason or another, Steve Bozek is memorable to me for one moment. A quick search shows me that the Canucks clinched their playoff berth for the 1991Stanley Cup playoffs on the very last day of the season: March 28, 1991, a 3-2 overtime win vs Winnipeg. What isn’t mentioned was that Steve Bozek scored the goal and a ten year-old boy went nuts in his room, having been listening quietly on his radio, under strict order not to disturb his sleeping younger brother in the room next door. From then on, I thought Steve was a pretty damn cool guy.
Steve was a hustler, the guy you could rely on to put it all on for every shift, and to sometimes get hurt doing his thing. His time with the Canucks would only last one playof round longer, as he moved on to San Jose after the season, becoming just another chapter in a long line of hustling, well respected Canucks pluggers. As is well known, the arrival of Pavel the following season pushed the Canucks into a new echelon, no longer chasing the league, instead they would be chased by the league. Would a guy like Steve, generously listed at 5’11", have been useful on a Canucks team that would within two seasons become one of the bigger squads in the league? The success of the eventual Stanley Cup runners-up of ’94 was credited on their ability to physically dominate their opponents (Calgary, Dallas, Toronto), something which the previous two iterations of the team had not done as well. The ’94 playoffs say players like Joe Charbonneau, Jimmy Carson, Adrien Plavsic and Jiri Slegr pushed aside; they simply weren’t menacing enough. Tim Hunter, Shawn Antoski, Big Serge, Bryan Glynn…those guys were big and played mean. Was Steve a mean player? I never felt he was.
Inevitably, to find greater success, the guys who get labelled as ‘hustlers’ get left behind. If you get painted with the hustling brush, that tends to mean that you are working extra hard to compensate for some sort of deficit. Steve was reliable enough to pot 15-17 goals every year, to be dependable and to do his best. Guys like this make mediocre teams a little less mediocre, but teams that are aiming for greatness? Don’t find too many ‘hustlers’ there…
(Oh and one other Bozek-related gobbet: you’ll notice Steve wore 14 for the Canucks. When Geoff Courtnall arrived in March of ’91, he wore number 10. With Steve’s departure, Geoff switched to his more familiar 14, leaving the door open for Pavel Bure to take on his now-famous number. Of course, it is a somewhat-known fact that the Russian Rocket took the roster spot of Jay Mazur, who made the team for his, you guessed it, hustlin’. – Thanks to Steve May, who pointed out my previous error, where I claimed Mazur was also displaced from the number 10 sweater. Not true it seems!)