When Henrik and Daniel Sedin announced their retirement last year, Vancouver Canucks fans experienced an array of emotions. Many hoped or expected the infamous Swedish twins to return for one last season with the club before hanging up the skates. Despite the melancholy feeling that washed over Vancouver following the announcement, there remained one nagging question among fans – who was going to be the next captain of the Canucks? The answer might be rising star Bo Horvat.
Many of us can recall the strange days before Henrik’s captaincy when the “C” was still adorned by none other than former Canucks star goaltender Roberto Luongo. Before Luongo inherited the responsibility in 2008-09, it belonged to a talented Swede by the name of Markus Näslund, who captained the Canucks from 2000-01 to 2007-08 when he left Vancouver and subsequently joined the New York Rangers.
Horvat’s Captain Qualities
When former general manager Mike Gillis traded goaltender Cory Schneider to the New Jersey Devils in 2013, fans weren’t happy about it. The return for the up-and-coming goaltender was the ninth overall pick in the 2013 NHL Entry Draft, and despite Gillis’ confidence in the deal, the consensus was that Schneider shouldn’t have been traded for the pick. The Canucks selected centre Bo Horvat from the OHL’s London Knights.
The London, Ontario native had put up a respectable 30 goals and 44 assists in his draft year, for a total of 74 points. During junior hockey, his playing style earned him the nickname ‘the Ox’. As Canucks fans have seen since his arrival in Vancouver, the name is very suitable for the 6-foot, 215-pound forward. Horvat has been imperative to the success of the team since he was picked by Gillis in the summer of 2013. He was fortunate enough to play with the Sedins for the better part of four seasons, allowing him to learn from two of the NHL’s most iconic European skaters.
Horvat’s collected, headstrong demeanour could easily be attributed, at least in part, to the 250-plus games he played with Henrik and Daniel. But in addition to the composed manner in which Horvat carries himself, he brings a physicality that Henrik rarely did. While the former Knight isn’t known for his fighting prowess, he isn’t afraid to drop the gloves when challenged and is a hound on the puck.
You don’t ease up when the 24-year-old is hot on your tail. His aggressiveness on the puck is something you can’t teach. His no-quit attitude and mental toughness may give you a bit of deja-vu. While he doesn’t use his fists to settle all of his on-ice disputes, some may see some Todd Bertuzzi in his game. His discipline and poise are reminiscent of former captains like Näslund and Trevor Linden, the latter leading the Canucks to the Stanley Cup finals in 1994-95.
A player like Horvat may not be touted as a generational talent, but he represents something of equal value to Canuck fans who grew up watching guys like Linden, Näslund and Henrik Sedin.
The Fans Called, but Will Anyone Answer?
Nobody needs to wonder if fans in Vancouver are on board with the notion of the captaincy going to Horvat. We’ve heard the names Alex Edler, Chris Tanev and the young talent Elias Pettersson, and even though these other names have been tossed around from time to time, it seems as though things always come back to Horvat. Fans on Twitter have been demanding he be given the ‘C’ for a couple of years now, and at times it feels as though they’re screaming into the abyss. It is unanimous: Horvat is the man for the job.
Canucks owner Francesco Aquilini recently created a poll on Twitter to get a feel for the number of fans who are ready for another leader in Vancouver. The poll results were fantastically lopsided.
The waiting game is admittedly driving myself and many fans totally crazy. The fans in Vancouver have collectively decided that they love the sound of “Captain Horvat”, so what are we waiting for? As tension builds and the 2019-20 season gets closer, the city of Vancouver will be waiting with bated breath to see if we’ll be gifted that beautiful Horvat jersey enhanced by a bold letter “C.” As cliché as it sounds, its time to give the people what they want.
Shane Wilson is a staff writer from Richmond, British Columbia. The former executive editor for Australia-based news outlet Rock Nation covers the Vancouver Canucks for The Hockey Writers and hosts a monthly comedy show in Steveston, B.C.