The Vancouver Canucks may be missing from the Stanley Cup Final festivities, but the province of British Columbia and the city of Vancouver definitely are not. In fact, the 2021 Final has seven players that either played for Canucks, were born in BC, or played for a BC-based team at some point in their career. So, basically, if you’re a fan of BC you should be watching when it all starts on June 28. With any luck, the Montreal Canadiens will win the Stanley Cup and the storied trophy will make its way out west by way of Carey Price and Shea Weber.
So with all that said, let’s take a deeper look at the connections these seven have to the beautiful province of British Columbia.
Born and raised in Sicamous, BC, Weber started his hockey journey in the Kootenay International Junior Hockey League (KIJHL) with the Sicamous Eagles at the young age of 15. He quickly established himself as a threat from the blueline, scoring nine goals and 42 points in 47 games before joining the WHL’s Kelowna Rockets in 2002. From there, it didn’t take long before he was one of the league’s superstars, combining grit and physicality with a cannon of a shot from the point. Over the course of three seasons, he scored 26 goals and 91 points in 190 games and racked up 388 penalty minutes. He also was a two-time WHL champion and was lucky enough to raise the Memorial Cup in 2005.
Surprisingly, Weber was not a first-round pick when he was drafted in 2003 by the Nashville Predators. In fact, 13 defencemen were selected ahead of him including Shawn Belle, Mike Egener, Tim Ramholt, and Danny Richmond who only have 70 NHL games between them. Since then, he’s added seven All-Star Game selections, two Olympic gold medals, a silver medal at the 2009 World Championship, and a Mark Messier Leadership Award to his resume. All while putting up 224 goals and 589 points in 1038 games. All that’s left to add for the Canadiens’ captain is a Stanley Cup, which is now only four wins away from being completed.
There’s not much more to say about Price that hasn’t already been said over and over again. He’s one of the top goaltenders in the world, and he has been for over a decade. Since his controversial fifth-overall selection back in 2005, he’s proven time and time again that no one should underestimate the calm, athletic, and positionally sound nature of Carey Price.
If you don’t believe me, just look at the accolades the Vancouver native has received. Over the course of his 21-year hockey career, he’s filled his trophy case with the William Jennings Trophy, Hart Trophy, Ted Lindsay Award, Vezina Trophy, and three gold medals from the Winter Olympics, World Cup, and World Junior Championship. He also led the Hamilton Bull Dogs to their first-ever Calder Cup in 2007 and has been named to the NHL All-Star Game seven times. Just like Weber, all that’s missing from his resume is a Stanley Cup.
Even though Alex Burrows was not born in BC, I think it’s safe to say that he’s an honorary BC-native after the career he had with the Canucks. Most of us know the rags to riches story of the man they call “Burr”, but for those who do not know, here’s the gist of it. After riding the buses in the ECHL with the Greenville Grrrowl, Baton Rouge Kingfish, and Columbia Inferno, the undrafted forward caught the eye of Manitoba Moose general manager Craig Heisinger who brought him in on an AHL amateur tryout contract to essentially replace the leadership of veteran Jimmy Roy. Except Burrows had other ideas.
After a season where Burrows showcased his tenacious and gritty style of play, the Canucks decided to give him an NHL contract and a place on their fourth line. The rest, as they say, is history as he became one of their most valuable and iconic players. Over the course of his 11-year career with the team, he scored 193 goals and 384 points in 822 games and was a consistent producer on their top line with Henrik and Daniel Sedin. In fact, some might call him the brother they never had, as he seemed to be on the same wavelength as the wonder twins every time he was on the ice with them.
Burrows came within a win of the Stanley Cup in 2011 where he did everything he could to will the Canucks to victory. During that epic run, he scored two overtime game-winners, including the legendary dragon slayer goal against the Chicago Blackhawks and one of the quickest winners in Stanley Cup Final history when he beat Tim Thomas on a wrap-around only 11 seconds in. Along with Ryan Kesler, Roberto Luongo, and the Sedins, he was their MVP and a huge member of one of the greatest teams in franchise history.
Now as Burrows gets set to return to the Stanley Cup Final for the first time in ten years, he will attempt to do something he and his teammates couldn’t, win that elusive 16th game and raise the Stanley Cup for the first time in his career. He may not have been able to do it as a player, but I’m sure it will be just as sweet as an assistant coach.
If you’re a fan of the Vancouver Giants you already know Brendan Gallagher‘s origin story. Before joining the Canadiens in 2012, he played four seasons in BC where he became a fan favourite and established himself as a hard-working, forechecking menace and handful to deal with in front of the net. He also was a lethal goal scorer posting three straight 40-goal seasons and a career-high 44 goals and 91 points during the 2010-11 season, ironically the same time one of his assistant coaches was starring in the playoffs with the Canucks.
Deemed too small to be drafted in the early rounds of the 2010 NHL Draft, Gallagher had to wait around until the fifth round before the Canadiens called his name at 147th overall. Like Burrows, he proved everyone wrong by becoming a top-line forward and one of the best two-way players and net-front presences in the NHL all while skating around in a 5-foot-9, 181-pound frame. Since being drafted, he has recorded two 20-goal and two 30-goal campaigns and has never finished a season with less than 10 goals. Now a member of the two-way shutdown line with Phillip Danault and Artturi Lehkonen, he has helped limit the production of Auston Matthews, Blake Wheeler, and Mark Stone en route to his first career Stanley Cup Final.
Brett Kulak played parts of four seasons with the Giants before he made it to the NHL with the Calgary Flames. Drafted 105th overall in 2012, he was actually a teammate of Gallagher’s on the Giants before he was reunited with him in Montreal during the 2018-19 season. He was a prominent member of the team too, donning the “A” in 2013-14 and leading all defencemen in scoring with 14 goals and 60 points in 69 games. He finished his WHL career with 35 goals and 128 points in 216 games.
After leaving his Giants’ colours behind in 2014, Kulak played parts of four seasons with the Flames and Abbotsford Heat before a trade brought him to the Canadiens in 2018. His first campaign in Montreal was a massive success as he finished the season with a career-high six goals and 17 points in 57 games. Since then he has become a full-time NHLer and has played the last two seasons as a sixth or seventh defenceman behind the four Clydesdales of Weber, Jeff Petry, Ben Chiarot, and Joel Edmundson.
Tyler Toffoli will forever be known as the one who got away. Eventually becoming a very expensive rental for the Canucks, he fit in perfectly on a line with Elias Pettersson and J.T. Miller where he scored six goals and 10 points in 10 games. He also was a consummate pro in the dressing room and a great mentor to Pettersson, Quinn Hughes, and Brock Boeser. Unfortunately, due to reported time constraints, general manager Jim Benning could not get a deal done to keep him in Vancouver when he became a free agent in the offseason.
Toffoli wanted to desperately stay in Canucks colours too and potentially finish his career on the West Coast. But when an offer never came his way, he had to look elsewhere. A few days after the free agency window opened on Oct 9, he was a member of the Canadiens.
Toffoli went on to torch the Canucks every time he had the chance, finishing the season with eight goals and 13 points in eight games. Combined with his dominating performance of 2020-21, he now has 21 goals and 34 points in 36 career games against his former team. He is by far one of the biggest Canuck Killers of all time.
Similar to his time with the Canucks, Toffoli has fit in perfectly with his new team. Playing on a line with youngsters Cole Caufield and Nick Suzuki, he has five goals and 14 points in 17 playoff games and is well on his way to claiming his second Stanley Cup. When you sum up both his regular season and playoff stats, he has 33 goals and 58 points in 69 games. Looks like he made the right decision to join the Canadiens when the Canucks didn’t think they needed his services.
Luke Schenn represents the only BC connection who does not currently play for the Canadiens. Although he only played 18 games with the Canucks, his hockey origin is firmly rooted in BC soil. Before he was drafted fifth overall by the Toronto Maple Leafs in 2008, he was a key member of the WHL’s Kelowna Rockets. Like Weber before him, he etched his name on Rockets’ history and became one of their most prominent alumni.
After four seasons, 68 points, and 325 penalty minutes with the Okanagan-based team, Schenn immediately joined the ranks of the Maple Leafs at the young age of 19 and proceeded to play four relatively solid seasons with them. Since then, he has played for six NHL teams and racked up 77 points in 487 games. He is now a depth defenceman with the Tampa Bay Lightning and has his first Stanley Cup ring after playing 11 games in the 2020 Playoffs.
British Columbia Continues To Be a Factory for NHL Talent
When you look at the history of the NHL and its roots in British Columbia, the talent pool is immense. From natives like Joe Sakic, Steve Yzerman, and Paul Kariya to the products from the five WHL teams of the Kamloops Blazers, Kelowna Rockets, Prince George Cougars, Vancouver Giants, and Victoria Royals, the past, present, and future is dotted with BC origins.
The Canadiens are just one of the many teams that are reaping the rewards of the extraordinary work done by the coaches, trainers, and development staff of these great franchises. With the WHL getting back to normal next season, we will be able to see more of them live and thus continue to witness the beginnings of NHL stardom straight from the grassroots of hockey in Canada, the Canadian Hockey League.
Matthew Zator is a THW freelance writer, editor, part-time journalist, and scout who lives and breathes Vancouver Canucks hockey, the NHL Draft, and prospects in general. He loves talking about young players and their potential. Matthew is a must-read for Canucks fans and fans of the NHL Draft and its prospects. For interview requests or content information, you can follow Matthew through his social media accounts which are listed under his photo at the conclusion of articles like this one about Tyler Motte.