0
Photo Credit: © Jake Roth-USA TODAY Sports

A History Of Canuck Captaincy Announcements

The captaincy of the Vancouver Canucks has been vacant ever since Henrik Sedin played his last NHL game on the night of April 7, 2017—but it won’t remain so much longer. The franchise will end months of speculation by naming the 12th–or 14th, depending on how one feels about triumvirates—captain in team history in a ceremony preceding their Wednesday home opener.

At this point, there’s not much mystery about the content of the announcement—it’s going to be Bo Horvat, as it should be. This author already covered all the reasons why this was the right decision over the summer, and owner Francesco Aquilini more-or-less spilled the beans earlier this week.

Horvat’s impending captaincy may be the “worst-kept secret in town,” but the details of the ceremony in which he’ll be anointed are still entirely up in the air. The Toronto Maple Leafs’ recent reveal of John Tavares as captain probably provides a basic blueprint of what it will look like, but the organization is sure to be putting its own West Coast spin on the whole thing as part of the #Canucks50 festivities.

Said head coach Travis Green, “We don’t take it lightly. It’s a huge honour. We think it’s the right time for our organization and right time for the person we’re going to name. It’s a special moment and something our fans should witness first hand at our first home game.”

No matter what form that takes, it will almost certainly make for a more dynamic presentation than any other captaincy reveal in franchise history—which have traditionally been rather dull affairs.

 

1st Captain: Orland Kurtenbach (1970-74)

Orland Kurtenbach was named as the first captain in franchise history before the Vancouver Canucks even hit the ice for their inaugural game. Obtained from the New York Rangers in the 1970 Expansion Draft, Kurtenbach was selected as captain in the offseason and presented as such on opening night—an evening in which the focus was primarily on the introduction of the franchise as a whole rather than Kurtenbach as an individual.

It was a fitting start for the understated and effective leader.

 

2nd Captain: Andre Boudrias (1975-76)

Following Kurtenbach’s retirement, the Canucks went a season without a captain before naming Andre Boudrias as his replacement in 1975. The selection came on the heels of Boudrias setting franchise records for assists and points in two consecutive years.

Like Kurtenbach, Boudrias was named captain before the season began and skated onto the ice for opening night already wearing the “C”—though it wouldn’t stay on his sweater for long. Boudrias went on to have his worst year as a Canuck in 1975/76, and left for the WHA at the end of the season.

Boudrias passed in February of this year.

 

3rd Captain: Chris Oddleifson (1976-77)

While Boudrias was struggling under the weight of the captaincy, Chris Oddleifson was enjoying the best season of his career with 62 points and 80 games—all the while demonstrating the sort of grit and toughness that was becoming a trademark of Canucks captains. When Boudrias left for the WHA, Oddleifson was named as his replacement—an announcement that was, again, made in the offseason.

 

4th Captain: Don Lever (1977-79)

The naming of Don Lever as the fourth captain in franchise history was perhaps the quietest of the Canucks’ captaincy announcements—probably because he was replacing an individual that would remain on the roster for years to come. Lever replaced Oddleifson after the latter spent just one season with the “C”—making Lever the first Canucks captain that had actually been drafted and developed by the team.

Lever would remain captain until the acquisition of Kevin McCarthy in late December of 1978—after which McCarthy was almost immediately named as the new captain. A few years later, Lever would become the first ever captain of the New Jersey Devils.

 

5th Captain: Kevin McCarthy (1979-82)

The naming of Kevin McCarthy as the fifth Canucks captain was perhaps the most controversial in franchise history—at least until Mark Messier entered the picture. Following his acquisition from the Philadelphia Flyers during the holiday season, McCarthy only played a single game for the Canucks before being named captain—and he also only played a single game before requiring hip surgery that shut him down for the rest of the year.

Fortunately, McCarthy returned to health in 1979/80 and responded with two consecutive career seasons before giving up the captaincy to Stan Smyl in the 1982 offseason.

 

6th Captain: Stan Smyl (1982-90)

In a sense, Stan Smyl replaced McCarthy as the Canucks’ captain twice. When McCarthy broke his ankle during the 1981/82 season, Smyl became his temporary replacement—and ended up leading the Canucks to an improbable appearance in the Stanley Cup Finals against the New York Islanders. With that on his résumé, it was a no-brainer to make the replacement a permanent one—and that’s exactly what general manager Harry Neale did during the following offseason. During a press conference announcing the move, Neale explained that “We reached a tremendous high last spring under Stan as captain and we feel we want to continue that atmosphere.”

The move proved slightly controversial within the franchise and resulted in McCarthy demanding a trade—though he’d remain on the roster for another season and a half before being dealt to the Pittsburgh Penguins.

“The Steamer” skated onto the ice for the 1982/83 season with the interim tag removed from his captaincy—and he remained in the role for the better part of a decade.

 

7th Captain: Trevor Linden (1990-97)

Stan Smyl—who had been a frequent healthy scratch the previous year—resigned his captaincy at the outset of the 1990/91 season, which would be his last in the NHL. The Canucks didn’t just name one replacement—they named three! Trevor Linden—then in his third season with the team—was named as one of three co-captains, along with Doug Lidster and Dan Quinn. At the time, the organization professed a desire to share the captaincy between three players who each possessed one of the many strong leadership attributes that “The Steamer” had exuded.

The triumvirate would only last a single season. Linden became the one-and-only captain as the 1991/92 season began, at the age of just 21—though there was little pomp and circumstance, given that he wasn’t exactly new to wearing the “C.” Linden would go on to serve as the team’s sole captain—and probably its most popular—until he ceded the title to a lesser leader in 1997.

 

8th Captain: Mark Messier (1997-2000)

The full details of Mark Messier’s ill-fated taking of the Canucks’ captaincy from Trevor Linden will likely never be known—though there’s been plenty of hearsay on the subject. What is known is that Linden received some pressure—whether it be from the Canucks’ front office or Messier’s agency—to give up the captaincy, and willingly did so before the 1997/98 season began. Some have insinuated that Linden only did this as a polite formality, expecting Messier to turn the appointment down—but, in any case, that definitely didn’t happen.

Perhaps anticipating the controversy, the Canucks avoided a large-scale passing of the torch ceremony—choosing instead to announce Messier as captain during a practice in Tokyo shortly before the season opened up in Japan and allow him to skate on the ice wearing Linden’s “C.” What happened thereafter is better left unsaid.

 

9th Captain: Markus Naslund (2000-08)

Markus Naslund became the first Canucks captain of the new millennium—and the first European-born captain in team history. In keeping with that, Naslund was named as captain in the midst of the team’s preseason trip to Sweden.

The announcement came at a press conference held in Stockholm on September 15, 2000—and, less than a month later, Naslund was skating onto the ice in Vancouver for the home opener with the “C” proudly displayed on his jersey.

Given the dark era the franchise had just undergone—and the unconventional nature of Naslund’s appointment—there were those who saw the Canucks’ choice to name a captain while overseas as a cowardly move reminiscent of the Messier announcement, though these notions were quickly forgotten as Naslund soon proved himself to be a much stronger leader than his predecessor.

 

10th Captain: Roberto Luongo (2008-10)

When Bo Horvat is named as the 12th captain in franchise history on October 9, 2019, he won’t be the first to be announced as part of a mystery reveal—and he definitely won’t be the most surprising.

The Canucks called a press conference on September 30, 2008, with the intention of announcing the 10th captain in franchise history. Willie Mitchell, Mattias Ohlund, and Ryan Kesler ascended the stage—and each of them had support within the fanbase as the next captain. Then, Alain Vigneault shocked both the assembled reporters and the hockey world at large by naming Roberto Luongo as the de facto leader moving forward.

Said general manager Mike Gillis at the time, “Alain and I were looking for someone to lead this team, who inspires his teammates, is respected for his on-ice accomplishments and who embodies the core values we are striving for as a hockey club. We are confident that Roberto, along with Mattias, Willie, Ryan and all of their teammates, will provide this organization with strong leadership both on and off of the ice.”

Unlike previous captains, Luongo did not get to wear a “C” on his jersey—but he did skate on to the ice of GM Place with the letter painted proudly on his helmet for the first game of the 2008/09 season.

 

11th Captain: Henrik Sedin (2010-18)

The Luongo-as-captain experiment ended with a two-part announcement. First, Luongo held a press conference at the outset of the team’s 2010 training camp to state that he’d be giving up the captaincy moving forward—and that a new captain would be named for the 2010/11 season.

At the team’s home opener on October 9, 2010—also the kickoff of the franchise’s 40th anniversary celebration—fans witnessed the first ever captaincy ceremony in team history, and it was a memorable one. Original captain Orland Kurtenbach stepped to center ice with a jersey in hand—and then presented it to Henrik Sedin, complete with a “C” where he’d previously worn an “A.”

Henrik put on the jersey, performed his trademark double-handed wave to the crowd, and then took a ceremonial faceoff against Dustin Brown. He then proceeded to lead the Canucks to the Stanley Cup Finals in his first season as captain—on the way to setting franchise records for assists, points, and class.

Both Henrik’s captaincy ceremony and his captaincy overall represent tough acts for Bo Horvat to follow—but on Wednesday night, we’ll just have to see how he does.