On Thursday, goaltender Thatcher Demko was named to Team Pacific as a representative of the Vancouver Canucks. There were many players like J.T. Miller (who is up for the Last Men In vote), Conor Garland and Quinn Hughes who deserved the honour as well, but the fans ultimately chose their man in the crease to travel to Vegas for the All-Star Game in February.
Why not? Apart from a few games, Demko has been the Canucks’ best player night in and night out. He’s kept them in games they had no business being in and has developed into one of the top goaltenders in the NHL. In other words, he more than deserves to be there.
Over a 50-year history that now includes Demko, the Canucks have sent seven goaltenders to the All-Star Game. Let’s take a look back at the other six and the seasons that brought them to the prestigious event.
Gary Smith (1975)
It took the Canucks five seasons to send their first goaltender to an All-Star Game. Gary Smith got the nod during a 1974-75 season that saw him finish with a career-high six shutouts and a mind-boggling 72 games played. His 3.09 goals-against average (GAA) and .895 save percentage (SV%) might seem like bad numbers now, but back then those were very respectable as goals were more plentiful and goaltenders wore smaller pads.
1975 marked the first year the NHL split the teams into conferences. Smith played behind Philadelphia Flyers’ legend Bernie Parent as part of the Campbell Conference All-Stars as the two goaltenders each played around 30 minutes in the game. His team also featured the likes of Hall of Famers Denis Potvin, Bobby Clarke, and Stan Mikita.
Unfortunately for Smith and his teammates, they had to go against the powerhouse Wales Conference All-Stars who had Bobby Orr, Guy Lapointe, Guy Lafleur, Darryl Sittler, Phil Esposito and Marcel Dionne. Oh yes, Ken Dryden was also their goaltender. Basically, they were doomed to fail before the puck hit the ice, and that’s exactly what happened as they lost 7-1. To Smith’s credit, he only allowed three of the seven goals.
Richard Brodeur & John Garrett (1983)
King Richard and Prince John. Those were Richard Brodeur and John Garrett’s nicknames when they formed a goaltending tandem for the Canucks between 1982 and 1985. They were also named to the 1983 All-Star Game as a tandem, even though only one of them played in the game.
Brodeur was initially selected to play but suffered an ear injury only three days before the festivities were about to commence. Naturally, Garrett stepped in as his replacement and took part in the first and only All-Star Game of his career (a fact he regularly brings up during Sportsnet broadcasts). Fronted primarily by the Edmonton Oilers and Chicago Black Hawks, who had a combined nine players in the game, he only allowed three goals in what ended up being a 9-3 victory.
Wayne Gretzky, of course, was the highlight package and then some as he famously scored four times in the final ten minutes of the third period to secure the win. Before that, Garrett was the star of the show until he ultimately upstaged him in the final half of the game.
“Call it divine inspiration, blind luck, or whatever suits you, but I managed to shine in that game…The Wales Conference had hammered us in the second period. I had managed to hold the fort and thought I was a lock for MVP honours – and the brand new car that came with it…Gretzky potted a record-setting four goals in the final ten minutes of the third period to steal the keys out of my pocket.” – John Garrett
In the end, Garrett can always call himself an NHL All-Star even though he was never an elite number-one in the league. He now entertains everyone as the colour guy on Sportsnet alongside veteran play-by-play man John Shorthouse.
Kirk McLean (1990, 1992)
Captain Kirk McLean was the first Canucks goaltender to play in multiple all-star games during his career. His first came in 1990 when he was named to the Campbell Conference All-Stars behind Mike Vernon of the Calgary Flames. His numbers that season didn’t look all-star worthy as he finished with a 3.47 GAA and .880 SV%, two stats that he had bested only a season before when he had a 3.08 GAA and .891 SV%. Nevertheless, he was named an all-star and ended up winning the Goaltenders Competition of the Super Skills.
McLean, like Smith before him, had to go against Hall of Famers like Mario Lemieux, Paul Coffey, Patrick Roy and Joe Sakic. He played half the game and watched Lemieux score four times, matching Gretzky’s feat that was set in 1983. Gretzky was held off the scoreboard as Lemieux won the MVP award.
McLean was selected to play in yet another All-Star Game in 1992. Unlike 1990, his statistics were all-star calibre as he finished the season with a 2.74 GAA and .901 SV% to go along with five shutouts. By the time he retired in 2001, those numbers stood up as career highs.
In the midst of a 31-goal season, Trevor Linden was also named to the team alongside McLean. While McLean played the second period and only allowed two goals, Linden recorded a goal and an assist in what ended as a 10-6 victory.
Roberto Luongo (2007, 2008, 2009)
Not just the winningest goaltender in Canucks history, Roberto Luongo is also the most decorated at the All-Star Game when it comes to matters of the crease. By the time he was unceremoniously traded back to the Florida Panthers in 2014, he had been selected to a franchise-record three All-Star Games.
Related: 7 Things About Roberto Luongo
Luongo’s first came during his maiden voyage in a Canucks uniform in 2007 when he posted a 2.28 GAA and .921 SV% along with five shutouts. Upstaging McLean, Garrett, Brodeur and Smith, he was named to the starting lineup with Nicklas Lidstrom, Phillippe Boucher, Jonathan Cheechoo, Joe Sakic and Joe Thornton. He played the first period and allowed goals to Danny Briere, Martin St. Louis, and Eric Staal.
Luongo was not the only Canuck in the news that season as depth defenceman Rory Fitzpatrick was almost selected to the All-Star Game with him. As a result of an easily manipulated fan voting process, he garnered 428,832 votes as a write-in candidate. For those that don’t remember, a whole fan campaign was started with T-shirts that read “Vote for Rory”, which was a call-back to the movie, Napoleon Dynamite. Ultimately, he finished third in the voting and was not selected.
Luongo’s first was not his last as he was named once again to the all-star proceedings in 2008 during a season that saw him post a 2.38 GAA and .917 SV% along with six shutouts. For the second straight season, he was chosen as a starter as well. Unfortunately, he did not participate in the game due to personal reasons. Chris Osgood of the Detroit Red Wings took his place in the lineup. Canucks fans were still treated to a show, however, as Henrik Sedin was named to the team too. Playing on a line with Marian Gaborik, he finished the game with two assists.
Luongo’s final all-star appearance as a member of the Canucks was in 2009, his third straight selection. For the first time in three years, he was not selected as a starter though. That honour went to Jean-Sebastien Giguere of the Anaheim Ducks. Luongo played the third period and shootout and finished as the losing goaltender after allowing goals to Alex Kovalev and Alex Ovechkin in the shootout.
Jacob Markstrom (2020)
Before Demko’s selection, it was Jacob Markstrom who held the mantle of last Canucks goaltender to appear in an All-Star Game. That happened in 2020, just months before the COVID-19 pandemic became part of everybody’s day-to-day life. In the midst of a breakout season that had him in Vezina Trophy conversations, he was named to Team Pacific after Marc-Andre Fleury decided to opt-out of the game to rest.
Joining Markstrom on the roster were young stars Elias Pettersson and Quinn Hughes. Before Hughes and Markstrom were named to the roster, it appeared that Pettersson was going to be the Canucks’ only representative. But after Fleury opted out and Hughes was selected as a result of the “Last Man In” fan vote, they ended up with three.
For the fifth straight year, the NHL played a three-on-three knockout tournament. After a 10-5 win over the Central Division and a 5-4 victory over the Atlantic, the Pacific Division walked away with the overall championship. After being named an honorary captain for the Pacific, Gretzky was caught on camera praising Hughes for his offensive talents as a defenceman.
Wow…That young lad’s a defenceman?! That’s better hands than I had! That’s pretty good.Wayne Gretzky on Quinn Hughes
So, Markstrom had to share the spotlight just a bit with the 20-year-old superstar who is now generating hype as a potential Norris Trophy candidate in 2021-22. Now a member of the Calgary Flames, Markstrom hopes to get in during the “Last Man In” vote, as Johnny Gaudreau is currently the man set to represent his team at this year’s event.
The Canucks can’t boast a long list of all-star goaltenders, but the ones that did get selected to the All-Star Game have certainly deserved the honour. Luongo still holds the record for selections as a netminder, but knowing Demko’s drive to be the best, he might not hold that record for much longer. His first is likely not going to be his last. Move over Bobby Lu, a new brick wall is in town, and his name is Demmer.
Matthew Zator is a THW freelance writer, media editor, 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.