This series is a chance to look back at some of the forgotten Canucks over the years as the team approaches their 50th year in the NHL. Some are more noteworthy than others, and if you have any memories of seeing these guys play, feel free to add them in the comments.
I was fortunate enough to have grown up in Kamloops, BC and see some pretty fantastic junior hockey in the 80’s and 90’s. From the Junior Oilers (who were nearly moved when the NHL team that owned them tried to move them to the Alberta capital before a community effort to buy the team kept them in Kamloops), to the legendary Kamloops Blazers teams of the 90’s that produced a handful of NHL legends, we were spoiled for quite a while.
One of the early stars of the Junior Oilers in the 80’s was Defenceman Doug Bodger. In two seasons in Kamloops, Bodger put up some pretty impressive numbers, eclipsing the 90 point mark both years, and was a big part of the Jr Oilers first WHL Championship, just 3 years after relocating to Kamloops from New Westminster.
Bodger was taken in the First round of the 1984 NHL Entry Draft, going 9th overall to the Pittsburgh Penguins (their 1st pick was some dude named Mario…?). While he wasn’t producing at his WHL levels, Bodger continued to be a strong two-way presence for the rebuilding Penguins and was part of a trade that brought Tom Barrasso to the Pens from Buffalo, that would help the Penguins get to their first Stanley Cup.
Bodger would be a fixture on the blueline in Buffalo for a number of years, and put up a career-high 9-45-54 in 1992-93. Before the end of his career, he would have stops in San Jose, New Jersey, and Los Angeles before 13 games for the team he grew up watching in Chemainus, BC in the 1999-00 season.
My favourite Bodger story from his days in Kamloops happened during a pretty memorable bench-clearing brawl against the Medicine Hat Tigers during a game in the old Memorial Arena in Kamloops.
A line brawl had already broken out with a number of Oilers players in the penalty box, leaving them shorthanded on the ice. It led to a number of 2 on 1 situations for the Tigers, and it led to a couple of the Oilers players leaving the penalty box to try and help their outnumbered teammates. One of the players who stayed in the box? Doug Bodger. But not that he didn’t try to leave. Fans reached over the glass and grabbed him by the jersey, to ensure he wouldn’t be able to leave and thus be ejected from the game. Bodger was one of the remaining players who would lead the Oilers to come back and win that game, thanks to a couple quick-thinking fans. Also, check out this video from the broadcast of the game. Future Canucks Robin Bawa and Greg Hawgood are mentioned in there. It’s a pretty violent affair, honestly, but an important one in the history of the team in its last season as the Junior Oilers.
So raise your mugs to Doug Bodger, a pretty decent d-man who ended his career with a cup of coffee playing with the Canucks.