As part of the Canucks’ 40th anniversary celebrations, there will be four inductees into what is being referred to as the “Ring of Honour”, which is meant to honour those who fall short of jersey retirement (limited so far to Stan Smyl, Trevor Linden and, shortly, Markus Naslund).
So far two players have already been inducted: original Captain Canuck, Orland Kurtenbach and Captain Kirk (the most successful Canuck goalie to date), Kirk McLean. It’s difficult to find fault with either of these selections, who clearly fall short of jersey retirement status but were both integral players in Canuck history.
Kurtenbach had a reputation as one of the genuinely toughest guys of his generation and led an expansion crew, that at the very least, was tough to play against. And while he played only a mostly injury plagued four seasons with Vancouver and despite not having an official capacity with the team since a brief coaching stint in the late 70’s, he has often been an ambassador for the team.
McLean, of course, was one of the key players (arguably the most valuable player) of the famed ‘94 near Cup squad. But while this moment in time certainly stands as his high water mark, he was a consistently strong netminder, and really, the first Canuck goalie to achieve a long run of high calibre backstopping.
So that brings us to the question on the minds of the long term faithful, who else should be rightly honoured? As stated, there will be two more inductees this season and those within the organization who know have been sworn to secrecy.
The elephant in the room, of course, is Pavel Bure. How his number is not being retired before the likes of Markus Naslund, is simply stated, a typically Canuck conundrum - an issue we covered in great detail here this summer. He will almost certainly be inducted in the Hockey Hall of Fame in due course and be the only true Canuck representative in hockey’s hallowed shrine.
On this basis alone, you’d think one day his number will hang from the rafters at Rogers Arena, after he’s paid whatever penance the club sees fit for holding his breath until he was shipped out of town. So it follows that he’s above and beyond the “Ring of Honour”. Or at least, he should be.
But putting aside the Russian Rocket for now, who else is worthy in the “Ring of Honour”?
Well, if it were up to us (as it should be), we would allocate this year’s two other inductee spots to Harold Snepsts and Thomas Gradin.
Our man Harold logged the most games of any Canuck defender ever and was as tough as they came. And damn it, we’re prepared to forget about the pass to Mike Bossy with two seconds remaining in overtime in Game 1 of the ‘82 Stanley Cup Final. Indeed, despite that blunder, Harrrrrr-ollllllllld was arguably the biggest fan favourite in this town and always a menacing presence on the back end, something that today’s squad is often lacking. And it certainly helps that he has recently returned to the Canuck operation as part of the scouting crew.
When Thomas Gradin arrived in Vancouver as the best of the Swedish contingent that Jake Milford was pioneering in the NHL, his world class skill was immediately obvious; mostly because we’d never seen anything like it from a guy in a Canuck uniform. In the end, when he left Vancouver, he was the franchise point leader and had made plumber Stan Smyl a point per game player. Like Snepsts, he has been a member of the Canucks’ scouting crew for a few seasons and is solely responsible for the drafting of Alex Edler (who happens to sport Gradin’s number 23).
So what’s your take? In the end, it’s your “Ring of Honour”.