If the semi-retired team slogan is to be believed, then “We Are All Canucks”—and there doesn’t appear to be a statute of limitations on that distinction. Vancouver fans have a tendency to think of individual players as Canucks long after they’ve left the city—even if said player has gone on to play several seasons in a different jersey. Perhaps a more fitting motto would be “Once A Canuck, Always A Canuck”—though there would have to be a caveat included for those like Ryan Kesler who burn their Port Mann Bridges before leaving.
Countless ex-Canucks have returned to the organization after their playing days have concluded. Manny Malhotra and Nolan Baumgartner are on the coaching staff, Ryan Johnson is running the Utica Comets, and Scott “Wild Thing” Walker is the director of player development. Even rather temporary Canucks like Curtis Sanford and Jason King are coaching the farm team.
In other words, there’s a pretty strong precedent for former Canucks returning to the team in off-ice roles—so let’s do our best to identify the perfect jobs for a handful of recently retired individuals.
Henrik and Daniel Sedin
Co-Heads of Off-Ice Development
We start with the most beloved of the recently-retired alumni—and probably the most beloved Canucks in general—the Sedin twins. While realistically Henrik and Daniel could probably walk into any role with the organization and succeed, let’s focus on an area in which they consistently outperformed their teammates—off-ice preparation.
The tradition of the Canucks’ two best players showing up to training camp and blowing everyone else out of the water with their fitness levels is near-legendary—and one can only imagine the motivational impact it had on new members of the organization. After all, if Henrik and Daniel are willing to put in the extra hours at the gym, shouldn’t everyone else on the team? It would be a shame to lose the mighty example that the Sedins set for their teammates in the past—so let’s not! Put the twins in charge of players’ and prospects’ off-ice development, and let everyone else try to get on their level.
People were talking about Bieksa’s future in sports media long before he retired—which he hasn’t done officially yet—due to his affable nature and overall likeability. Those qualities haven’t faded during his lengthy sojourn to California, either. The question stands, however, as to which specific media role would best suit the man they call “Juice.”
Bieksa would represent a shot of energy to any part of the Vancouver media apparatus he joined, so why not put him in the area that needs the most work—the intermission. Most Canucks fans have developed a habit of muting their televisions in between periods due to the typically dry/shouty Sportsnet content, but that would change once Bieksa was brought on board. His subtle sense of humour and love of poking fun would make him an engaging host for whichever intermission guests were booked on any given night—and he could easily hold down a segment or two on his own if need be.
Like Kevin Bieksa, Higgins has already dabbled in the Vancouver media market—with generally positive results. Thus far, Higgins has been limited to guest-spots and panel interviews, but he has the potential to do a lot more.
Dan Murphy isn’t going anywhere anytime soon, but if the Canucks find themselves in need of a second rinkside reporter they should seriously consider Higgins. Physically, he’s the T-1000 to Murphy’s Terminator—better hair, a more charming smile, and significantly more developed abs. Personality-wise, Higgins might not bring the same charm that Murphy does at first—but his soft-spoken nature would be perfect for short-but-sweet intermission interviews and the like.
Willie Mitchell and Brendan Morrison
Outdoor Excursion Coordinators
For a team situated in the most beautiful geographic region in the world, the Canucks sure don’t take advantage of their natural surroundings very often. Sure, there’s the annual climb up the Grouse Grind and the occasional training camp expedition—but so much more could be done to connect the team with the gorgeous land they live on.
Both Mitchell and Morrison are already well-known for their woodsy nature—and both are regularly featured on televised fishing shows—so who better to help members of the organization explore the great outdoors? Imagine Mitchell and Morrison taking a group of prospects on a multi-day ocean fishing trip during training camp or using a week off for a team-building excursion into the Garibaldis. Who wouldn’t want that to happen?
East Coast Ambassador
Most Canucks fans are tired of the notion that Canada’s east coast doesn’t care about any of the western teams—whereas those of us on the Pacific side are expected to hang on the every exploit of the Leafs or les Canadiens. An official East Coast Ambassador could go a long way toward building up the Canucks’ credit on the other side of the continent as they once again approach contender status—and thus avoid a repeat of the entire country cheering against them as they did in the 2011 Stanley Cup Final.
Sundin is the perfect candidate for such a tradition. He’s loved in both Ontario and Quebec for his time with the Maple Leafs and Nordiques, so he’s as well-equipped as anyone to convert fans to cheering for the Canucks. Of course, there are some Toronto diehards that will never abandon their team—but, at the very least, having Sundin officially employed in the Vancouver organization would seriously annoy them, and that’s not nothing.
Utica Comets Coach
Unlike many others on this list, Burrows is already employed in this position—albeit for a different organization. He’s currently an assistant coach for the Laval Rocket—Montreal’s farm team—but AHL coaching staffs are traditionally short-lived, so he could be available for a return to Vancouver sooner rather than later.
Of all the ex-Canucks that could be possibly hired to the Utica staff, none is a better fit than Burrows. After all, who better than someone who dragged themselves all the way up from the ECHL to a top-line NHL role to oversee the progression of the organization’s prospects? Burrows’ remains one of the most inspirational stories in franchise history—and he can keep on inspiring young Canucks for years to come.
This one might read like a joke—and it kind of is—but think about it for a moment. Is there anyone in the history of the Vancouver Canucks organization more qualified to lend their opinion on hockey-related injuries? If it’s a malady that might befall a hockey player, chances are Salo has had it.
The fact that Salo overcame his litany of injuries to play 878 career games in the NHL suggests that he’s not just an expert in getting hurt—but also a master of recovery. He could help get injured Canucks back on their skates quicker and more safely—if he doesn’t suffer a fatal papercut signing his new contract, that is.
It’s a questionable tactic to take a lighthearted article and end it on a serious note, but this author is going for it anyway. The National Hockey League has fallen way behind on the crisis of Traumatic Brain Injuries—but that doesn’t mean that individual organizations can’t invest in combatting the issue and start making significant changes.
Alberts—who had his career ended after a vicious hit left him with ongoing concussion-related issues—might be the best man for the job. He knows firsthand how negatively a TBI can affect a player’s life—even after they’ve retired—and he could be counted on to liaise with experts in the field and push the Canucks to adopt forward-thinking policies. In doing this, the Canucks would be setting a great example for the rest of the league—and giving a job to a former player who really deserves one.