Growing up playing hockey, it’s natural for every kid to dream of one day playing in the NHL. Pretending that you’re in a Game 7, puck on your stick, in on a breakaway with the game tied in your driveway is a familiar memory for most people. Growing up in British Columbia and playing hockey, it’s natural to want to one day wear a Vancouver Canucks uniform, B.C.’s lone NHL team.
For defenceman Jordie Benn, that dream became a reality when he signed a two-year, $4 million deal with the Canucks this past Canada Day. Benn grew up just a ferry ride away in Victoria and was an avid Canucks fan growing up. He said that the ’94 team was what really got him hooked and he looked up to players such as Kirk McLean, Geoff Courtnall, and his personal favourite player, the ever-popular Gino Odjick.
Like any free agent, Benn picked the Canucks because he saw an opportunity. Not just an opportunity to get lots of ice time, but an opportunity to win. It’s no secret that the Canucks are an exciting young team. The likes of Elias Pettersson and Brock Boeser have made others around the league take notice of what is going on over here on the west coast. Benn will be a key part of the Canucks’ blue line this season, but this isn’t his first time being in Vancouver with the Canucks.
A Long Road to the NHL
Lily Tomlin once said that the road to success is always under construction. For Benn, those words couldn’t be truer. While his younger brother Jamie quickly found success at the NHL level after being drafted by the Dallas Stars in 2005, Jordie’s path to the NHL was much longer. It began in the BCHL playing for the Victoria Salsa, who later became the Grizzlies in the 2006-07 season, Benn’s third with the club. After going undrafted, the defenseman played the 2008-09 season with the Victoria Salmon Kings of the ECHL, but that wasn’t before he signed his first professional contract with then-Canucks’ AHL affiliate, the Manitoba Moose.
After an impressive showing as an invitee at a prospect camp, Benn was offered the first professional contract of his career in 2008. That’s why he was at the Canucks training camp in Sept. 2008, sporting a much, well, different look. “I’m pretty sure there’s a picture of me at camp with no beard and zits all over my face,” Benn told the Vancouver Courier’s Daniel Wagner back in July.
Unfortunately for Benn, he was unable to crack the Canucks or Moose lineup and returned home to Victoria for a season in the ECHL.
A Calming Veteran Presence
Benn eventually found himself with an opportunity in the NHL with the Stars, the same team who drafted his brother, Jamie, in the 2012-13 season. It was there that Benn made a name for himself and became an everyday NHL player. It’s this road less travelled and veteran experience that makes the defender a perfect fit for the Canucks. When asked if he now feels that he can provide a calming veteran presence for a young Canucks team, the new addition said the following:
“There’s some high-stress and some high-pressure situations out there and I think I can calm the guys down and obviously you want to keep their heads in the game and don’t think too much, just play. I definitely think I can bring that aspect to this team.”-Jordie Benn
That calming veteran presence is one that the Canucks saw Luke Schenn bring for Quinn Hughes, who was paired with the veteran journeyman during the five games he played with the Canucks last season. Benn could find himself on a line with Hughes at some point during the season but is more likely to play with another relatively young Canuck defencemen, Troy Stecher, who like Benn, is playing for the team he grew up cheering for.
Benn brings a team-first mentality and versatility in that he can play both the right and left side. When asked which of his new teammates he’s most excited to play with and which side he is more comfortable playing on, Benn said the following:
“I’ve played on both sides my whole career, so there’s no one position that’s more comfrotable for me, it’s just wherever the team needs me to, I’ll play” Said Benn. “I’m most looking forward to playing with everybody, the forwards, the defence, the goalies, it’s going to be fun to get on the ice and get the group gelling.”-Jordie Benn
Benn also experienced a season last year in Montreal with the Canadiens where his team got off to a hot start but faltered as the season went on. He’s determined to make sure his new Canucks teammates know just how crucial the first twenty games of the season can be and how a slow start to the season could be a deciding factor in them not qualifying for a playoff spot. The first 20 games can make or break you, according to Benn, and he’s determined to make sure he passes that information along to his teammates.
More Than Meets the Eye
When the Canucks signed Benn this offseason, fans were excited to get a proven two-way defenceman coming off the best statistical season of his career. What fans didn’t know, however, is he will bring as much to the Canucks behind the scenes as he will on the ice. Having players with Benn’s character and team-first attitude is huge for any team, but it’s especially vital for a team filled with young up and coming players.
Fans were disappointed to see Schenn go this offseason, but Benn will have a much similar effect on his teammates that Schenn did during his short tenure with the Canucks. The newcomer will bring versatility, leadership, and physicality to the Canucks. Most of all, the defender is looking forward to a chance to win with the team he grew up idolizing as a young boy growing up in Victoria. Benn will bring much more than meets the eye to the Canucks in 2019-20.