The Vancouver Canucks, like many teams in sports, have a Ring of Honour dedicated to players who helped shape the franchise. The Canucks have inducted seven names so far, including the team’s first captain Orland Kurtenbach and, most recently, “the dragon slayer” Alex Burrows. After Kevin Bieksa signed a one-day contract to retire with Vancouver, the debate once again started up about who should be the next person inducted into the team’s Ring of Honour. Here are seven candidates that could be considered.
Tony Tanti was the original Canucks superstar. After being traded by the Chicago Blackhawks to the Canucks in 1983, he exploded as a 20-year-old for 45 goals and 86 points in his first full season with Vancouver. He went on to post five straight seasons of 39 goals or more and became the second Canuck to hit 250 career goals with the organization. To this day, he also still holds some franchise records, including career hat tricks with ten and fastest to ten goals in a season with seven.
One of the reasons Tanti isn’t talked about in the same light as Stan Smyl, Pavel Bure or the Sedins is that Vancouver never made a deep Cup run while he was part of the organization. The Canucks only made it to the playoffs four times while he was in Vancouver and never made it out of the first round. Despite the lack of playoff success, he is an all-time great and should be strongly considered for the Ring of Honour.
The only player in franchise history to win the Frank J. Selke Trophy, Ryan Kesler was dynamic during his ten-year career with the Canucks. Whether it was shutting down the best players from around the league or scoring over 20 goals a season from 2007-12, he was a key cog for the Canucks during their remarkable 2010-11 season. Few in franchise history can match the two-way game he brought at the peak of his career.
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Inducting Kesler would be controversial based on his exit from Vancouver. It is well-reported that he asked for a trade from the Canucks and that he limited the options where the Canucks could trade him, but since his retirement, the feeling around Vancouver seems to have shifted. He was cheered when making an appearance at the Sedin’s jersey retirement night and is being talked about more favourably on local talk shows and in their caller submissions. He is one of the franchise’s best players and arguably deserves some recognition for his time in a Canucks jersey.
After being drafted in the fifth round by the Canucks during the 2001 NHL Entry Draft, the man known as “Juice” played ten seasons in Vancouver and is considered one of the best right-shot defencemen in franchise history. Overall, he is ranked sixth among Canucks defencemen with 241 points and one of nine to hit the 50-goal mark with the organization. The franchise’s only defenceman to record ten career playoff goals, Bieksa wore his heart on his sleeve and was one of the core players that helped the Canucks make it to the 2011 Stanley Cup Final.
While Bieksa did have strong seasons, including eclipsing the ten-goal mark twice and recording at least 40 points three times in his career, it was his physical play and overall leadership that made him special. If the team needed a spark, he would do whatever it took to get his team fired up. A leader on the ice, in the community and the reason the Canucks made it to the 2011 Stanley Cup Final, “Juice” will always hold a special spot in Canucks history.
The debate around Gino Odjick and whether or not he should be considered for the Ring of Honour is tricky. He didn’t produce a ton of points during his eight-season career with the Canucks, but is still a fan favourite despite retiring over 20 years ago. Since his retirement, he has become a great ambassador for the organization and, as of 2022, an inducted member of the BC Sports Hall of Fame.
Whether or not Odjick is added to the Ring of Honour will be based on what criteria the selection committee uses. If it is based on statistics, he probably won’t make the list, but if it is about the impact on the team on and off the ice, there is a chance. From protecting Bure to being a leader in the community, “Gino” should be under consideration for the Ring of Honour.
While some believe that Roberto Luongo’s number should be retired in Vancouver, there is little debate that he should at least be inducted into the team’s Ring of Honour. The Canucks all-time regular season leader in wins and shutouts, he led Vancouver to back-to-back President’s Trophies and within one game of a Stanley Cup. He also is the only goalie in franchise history to win two NHL awards as he won the William M. Jennings Trophy with Cory Schneider in 2011 and is the only player to win the Scotiabank Fan Fav Award, which was handed out in 2009.
There is no debating that Luongo’s relationship with the Canucks ended on a sour note which is why inducting him into the Ring of Honour should be a no-brainer. Bringing him back and honouring him for all the work he did on and off the ice is the perfect way to show the soon-to-be Hall of Famer how much the organization and city appreciate him. With a plaque right next to Kirk McLean’s, Vancouver could honour the two best goaltenders this organization has ever seen.
One of the franchise’s best defencemen, Dennis Kearns, patrolled the Canucks blue line for ten seasons from 1971-81. During that time, he set multiple franchise records and still sits tied for third all-time in points by a defenceman with 321. A back-to-back winner of the Walter “Babe” Pratt Trophy given to the team’s best defenceman, he helped Vancouver make the playoffs for the first time in franchise history during the 1974-75 season and played his entire career with the Canucks organization.
One of the main reasons Kearns is often forgotten is that the Canucks were not a good team during his playing career. He only played in the playoffs four times and, like Tanti, just missed out on Vancouver’s magical run to the Final in 1982. In 2023, he will be inducted into the BC Sports Hall of Fame so next season may be the perfect time for the Canucks to jump on the celebration and induct him into their Ring of Honour as well.
While it is usually the players that get all the glory, it is hard to overlook the impact Alain Vigneault had on the Canucks organization. No one in franchise history coached more games, had a higher win percentage in the regular season or had more wins in the regular season or playoffs than “A.V.” He was behind the bench during the most successful time period in Canucks history, yet arguably to this day still doesn’t get the credit he deserves.
One of the more impressive statistics about Vigneault is that the Canucks were dominant in the regular season for the majority of his time behind the bench. They won the division title in six of his seven seasons, including his last with the organization in 2011-12. Unfortunately, though, the team could not deliver in the playoffs, which led to him being fired after the Canucks were swept by the San Jose Sharks that season. As one of only two coaches to win the Jack Adams Trophy in franchise history, his induction into the Ring of Honour would be a well-earned distinction.
Plenty of Options To Choose From
Whether it is players from the 70s or the 2010s, the Canucks have done a good job of honouring their past with the first seven Ring of Honour inductees. The organization hasn’t announced who or when the next inductee will join the rafters, but the seven players/coach listed would be excellent choices. All of these players helped build the Canucks franchise and should be honoured with a permanent display at Rogers Arena.
Adam is excited to be joining The Hockey Writers as part of the Seattle Kraken and Vancouver Canucks team. His work can also be found at area51sportsnet.com where he covers the Vancouver Giants of the Western Hockey League.