Since joining the NHL in 1970, the Vancouver Canucks have had 13 team captains. Some were boxers, some were bruisers, some were pluggers, some were Swedes. One guy was a goalie who won Olympic gold with Team Canada, one guy was a defenseman who won Olympic gold with Team Canada’s women’s team, and one guy was vilified before going into the Hall of Fame. You want ’em, you got ’em: every team captain in Vancouver Canucks history.
by Jason Kurylo
Orland Kurtenbach, #25, 1970 – 1974. Orland Kurtenbach was known as a gentleman off the ice, but one of the game’s toughest fighters. He played with the WHL Vancouver Canucks in the late 1950s – garnering Rookie of the Year honours and a President’s Cup in 1958. Then he suited up for three separate Original Six franchises (New York Rangers, Toronto Maple Leafs and Boston Bruins) in the 60s. Vancouver chose Kurtenbach in the expansion draft, immediately naming him the NHL franchise’s first captain. Despite a mid-season injury that forced him to miss almost 30 games, “Captain Kurt” was able to put up more than a point per game – 53 points in 52 games – in the Canucks’ inaugural season. He finished his pro career in Vancouver, playing four seasons in Canuck colours and scoring 163 points in 229 games. He retired after the 1973-74 season at the age of 38, but spent a few years coaching at various levels – he even coached the Vancouver Canucks for a season and a half in the late 70s. Since then he has appeared at many community events as an ambassador for the Canucks. In 2010, as part of the team’s 40th anniversary celebrations, Kurtenbach was the first player to be inducted into the Canucks Ring of Honour.
André Boudrias, #7, 1975 – 1976. Despite an outstanding three years with the Montreal Junior Canadiens from 1961-64, André Boudrias had trouble cracking the big club’s roster in the mid-60s. He played his first full NHL season after expansion in 1967 – as a rookie with the Minnesota North Stars, he led the team in assists and finished second in team scoring. In 1970, he was a major contributor to the St Louis Blues making the Stanley Cup final (where they lost in four straight, culminating in Bobby Orr scoring “The Goal”.) He led the Vancouver Canucks in scoring four of the team’s first five seasons. Boudrias had 62 assists in 1974-75, a team record which stood until Henrik Sedin set a new mark 32 years later. In the summer of 1976, Boudrias moved back to Quebec, where he played in the WHA for two more seasons before retiring. He has won five Stanley Cups as scouting staff of the Montreal Canadiens (1986, 1993) and New Jersey Devils (1995, 2000, 2003).
Chris Oddleifson, #11 & #14, 1976 – 1977. Oddleifson was drafted 10th overall by the California Golden Seals in the 1970 draft, but did not play an NHL game until two years later when he managed to crack the post-Cup Boston Bruins lineup. Despite limited ice time, he set the Bruins record for most goals in a game by a rookie, with four goals against those same Golden Seals. Oddie was traded to Vancouver midway through the 1973-74 season, and played 469 games in a Canucks uniform over the next eight years. He is now a real estate agent in North Vancouver, BC, Canada.
Don Lever, #9 & #10, 1977 – 1979. Don Lever played the first eight of his 15 NHL seasons in Vancouver, including two as captain. He scored at least 20 goals in six of those years, and in total had 159 goals and 407 points in 593 games as a Canuck. A solid two-way player who excelled on special teams, Lever was traded to the Atlanta Flames midway through the 1979-80 season. Two years later, he became the first-ever captain of the New Jersey Devils. Prior to the 1994 NHL lockout, the man they called “Cleaver” spent 15 years as an assistant coach in the Buffalo Sabres organization and another two with the St Louis Blues. Until the end of the 2010-11 season, Lever was the head coach of the Chicago Wolves of the AHL. Ironically, he lost this postion when the Vancouver Canucks took over the NHL affiliation of the club.
Kevin McCarthy, #25, 1979 – 1982. Kevin McCarthy played six of his ten NHL seasons on the Vancouver blueline, including four consecutive 40+ point seasons. He missed the team’s famous run to the 1982 Stanley Cup final, however, when he broke his ankle on the eve of the playoffs. At the time of his trade to the Pittsburgh Penguins in 1983, McCarthy held the career record for goals in a Vancouver jersey by a defenseman (51) and was second in assists (148) and points (199). Today, he is still seventh in goals, and eighth in assists and points. After retiring as a player, McCarthy spent ten years as an assistant coach for the Carolina Hurricanes, winning a Stanley Cup with the club in 2006. He is currently an assistant coach for the Philadelphia Flyers.
Stan Smyl, #12, 1982 – 1990. Stan “Steamer” Smyl had a stellar junior career, leading the New Westminster Bruins to three consecutive Memorial Cup tournaments, including wins in 1977 and 1978. He was drafted in the second round of the 1978 draft, and played his entire 13-year career with Vancouver. He took over the Canucks captaincy for the 1982 Stanley Cup playoffs, and never looked back. While all of the marks would later be broken by Trevor Linden and/or Markus Naslund, Steamer retired as the franchise leader in seasons of captaincy (8), games played (896), goals (262), assists (411), and points (673), and had his number 12 raised into the rafters in 1991. Smyl is currently a Senior Advisor on Hockey Operations to Canucks GM Mike Gillis, and was named to have of the Top Seven Canucks Nicknames of All Time by Pucked in the Head podcast in 2011.
Dan Quinn, #7, 1990 – 1991. After Stan Smyl’s retirement, the Canucks organization named three co-captains for the 1990-91 season: Dan Quinn, Doug Lidster and Trevor Linden. Quinn was the mysterious choice – he had only played a handful of games in Vancouver after four years each in Calgary and Pittsburgh. He didn’t even complete the 1990-91 season as Canucks co-captain before being traded again – in fact, he ended up playing with seven different teams in five seasons, and missed most of a season with Minnesota as he dealt with rape allegations. After his hockey career, he dabbled in pro golf, both on the celebrity tour and as a caddy to legitimate pro golfers, such as John Daly and Ernie Els.
Doug Lidster, #3, #24 & #25, 1990 – 1991. Defenseman Doug Lidster played the first 10 of his 16 NHL seasons in Vancouver. He still holds the team record for most points by a defenseman in a single season (63 points in 1986-87). In 1993, he was traded to the New York Rangers, who beat the Canucks in the Stanley Cup final the following season – he won a second Cup with the Dallas Stars in 1999. He was named an assistant Canadian National Women’s Hockey Team in 2008, and won Olympic gold in 2010.
Trevor Linden, #16, 1990 – 1997. The most popular Canuck in the team’s 40-year history, Trevor Linden was one of the youngest captains in league history when he accepted the C at age 21. He played 19 seasons with Vancouver, Montreal, Washington and the New York Islanders (where he was also team captain for one season). Fittingly, 16 of those seasons were spent in Vancouver. Linden scored 30 or more goals in six of his first eight seasons, and was the heart and soul of the 1994 team that came within a goalpost of sending Game Seven of the Stanley Cup final to overtime. In that game, he famously rallied his team by scoring two goals with cracked ribs, but was unable to pull off the miracle win. Gutting it out through ailments and injuries were nothing new for Linden – between 1990 and 1996, he was the NHL ironman, playing in 482 consecutive games. Upon the arrival of Mark Messier in 1997, Linden stepped down as team captain out of respect for the six-time Cup winner. He was later traded by GM and coach Mike Keenan, and Vancouver fans often refer to the no-Linden era as the darkest time in team history. Linden would return to finish his career in Vancouver, playing there from 1988-98 and 2001-08. He was the NHLPA president from 1998 to 2006. His number 16 was retired in 2008. He is involved in many community events around Vancouver, and makes numerous appearances for charity throughout the year. In addition to some real estate investment and cycling events, Linden is involved in a Club 16 – Trevor Linden Fitness in Coquitlam, a Vancouver suburb.
Mark Messier, #11, 1997 – 2000. Mark Messier is easily the least popular captain in Canucks history. Not only did Messier help the Edmonton Oilers kick Vancouver around the rink throughout the 80s, he captained the New York Rangers to the 1994 Stanley Cup – where they beat the Canucks in one of the most entertaining seven-game finals in decades. To make matters worse, he swaggered into Vancouver, took the captain’s C from fan favourite Trevor Linden, and demanded to wear his customary #11 – despite the fact that no Vancouver player had worn it since Wayne Maki’s tragic death in 1974. I suppose it all would have been okay had he brought Vancouver the Cup as he’d done for New York three years earlier. Unfortunately, with the Canucks Moose put up the three worst points-per-game seasons of his career, and the team failed to make the playoffs in each of those years. Both Messier and Keenan put in passionless performances in Vancouver, and it was contagious. Other players and team staffers echoed fan sentiments, that this time was “the team’s darkest hour”. At the end of the 1999-2000 season, when Messier reconciled as a free agent with the New York Rangers, Canuck fans cheered – season ticket sales jumped almost immediately. Even with his sub-par performance wearing the Orca, Messier is the second-leading scorer in NHL history, with 1,887 points over 25 seasons. Counting regular season and playoff games, he is the NHL’s all-time leader in games played. He was inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame in 2007. He is involved with the New York Rangers and Canadian National Men’s Team organizations, and has been a recent spokesman against headshots in hockey. He has been attached to studies on concussions in sport, as well as the controversial “Bubble Helmet”.
Markus Naslund, #19, 2000 – 2008. After the game’s meanest captain in Mark Messier, the Canucks went in a completely different direction, giving Markus Naslund the C. The choice was widely criticized by the city’s media and many fans, as Naslund was quiet, unassuming – and perhaps worse, he was the first European captain in team history. Interestingly, he credits those three years beside Mark Messier with the blossoming of his leadership skills. For several years after becoming Canucks captain, Naslund was one of the top scorers in the NHL, and landed numerous corporate sponsorships. As a member of the exciting “West Coast Express” line with Todd Bertuzzi and Brendan Morrison, Naslund led Vancouver in scoring for seven straight years, and captained the club for a franchise-high eight full seasons. He won the Lester B Pearson award as the NHLPA’s Most Valuable Player in 2003, but lost the Hart and Art Ross trophies to countryman Peter Forsberg in a dramatic late-season finish to the scoring race. Naslund is still the Canucks all-time leading scorer, although that mark is sure to be eclipsed by one or both of the Sedin twins in upcoming seasons. His number 19 was retired by the Canucks in 2010. Markus Naslund is the current General Manager of Modo, the Swedish Elite League team that he broke into the pro ranks with.
Roberto Luongo, #1, 2008 – 2010. Upon Naslund’s 2008 free agent signing with the New York Rangers, the Vancouver Canucks again went in an odd direction. They named Roberto Luongo as the first goaltender to captain a team since Bill Durnan with the Montreal Canadiens in 1947-48. As the NHL prohibits goalies from performing on-ice captain’s duties, Luongo wore the C on his mask, not his jersey. Luongo was a vocal leader in the dressing room, however – but consecutive Western Conference semifinal losses to the Chicago Blackhawks in 2009 and 2010 led to intense scrutiny of his captaincy by fans and media. Luongo stepped down during the off-season in 2010. He led the team to a record-setting season, and followed it up by getting to within one win of the 2011 Stanley Cup against the Boston Bruins. He is signed with the Canucks until the sun implodes, taking the earth with it in a spectacular ball of fire and negative space. For his supporters (like me), that is a good thing – we believe he will almost certainly bring Vancouver its long-awaited first championship. For his critics (and there are a mind-numbing number of them), this means the team is doomed to a decade or more of near misses and what-ifs. I digress. Is it October yet?
Henrik Sedin, #33, 2010 – present. Henrik Sedin was named the 13th captain of the Vancouver Canucks on the opening day of the 2010 – 11 season. The previous season, he became the first Canuck to win the Art Ross trophy as the NHL leading scorer, and brought to Vancouver the team’s first-ever Hart trophy as league MVP for good measure. His 112 points stands as the franchise record for most points scored in a single season, two more than Pavel Bure put up in 1993-94. As of the end of the 2010-11 season, he already holds the team mark for career assists, with 509. Sedin is signed with the Canucks through the 2013-14 season, by which time, barring significant injury, he will own most franchise scoring records.
Jason Kurylo is the creator and co-host of Pucked in the Head, a hockey podcast with listeners on four continents. He also writes Seven Things, a blog that balances knowledgeable hockey analysis with an admittedly bent sense of humour. When he is not memorizing useless hockey trivia, Jason can be found making googly eyes at his wife Nadia and young daughter Milla. He is almost certainly eating a chewy chocolate treat at the very moment that you read this.
Jason [at] puckedinthehead.com
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