Canucks Miller and Pettersson

Simmer’s Boxing Day 9: Canucks Leaders, THE Coach, Lying PR

Here’s hoping your holiday season has been bright and delightful, your dreams are full of Canucks pucks entering the net, and your 2024 is full of health, happiness and prosperity.

1) It’s not often one gets to say “I’ll be commuting to the ball park on the train” in December, but that will be the case the next few days as we get closer and closer to the NHL Winter Classic at T-Mobile Park in Seattle.

I’ll be taking a look at the rink preparation process on Wednesday, going for a skate with the media on Saturday, watching the Kraken and Golden Knights practice on Sunday and then hitting the game on New Year’s Day.

The chance to go for a spin on the ice is always nice, but no media skate has compared to the actual media hockey game we played in Ann Arbor at Michigan Stadium a couple of days ahead of the 2014 Winter Classic between the Detroit Red Wings and Toronto Maple Leafs.

An NHL executive was the ref’ for our game.

The media match was a festive tilt featuring a number of folks from the region who actually played hockey. The WC itself that year drew 105,491 fans on a bitter cold day following a big snowstorm.

It was particularly cool because I grew up going to Michigan football games there, and yes, I am hoping for a Michigan/Washington national championship game this time around. Go Huskies and M-GO-BLUE!

2) Aside from running into him and chatting at the annual Hockey Hall of Fame activities in Toronto, for whatever reason, about once a year I have the pleasure of speaking to Scotty Bowman on the phone for about 45-minutes.

Whether it’s to get comments for a book or to ask random questions about someone in the game, it doesn’t matter, the NHL’s all-time winningest coach has insightful answers. We usually cover a lot of ground on topics he brings up, it’s always entertaining and educational, and of course for me a distinct pleasure.

Last week I ended up hearing his thoughts on the pros and cons of 1-1-3 or 1-3-1 neutral zone alignments. old school referees. the incredible skating of Sergei Fedorov and how the Red Wings used him as a defenceman for a stint, stick fouls, Dit Clapper compared to Eddie Shore, rookie Leo Carlsson of the Ducks, Penguins coach Mike Sullivan, and who makes the playoffs in the East.

He’s a 90-year-old hockey savant.

3) The 2024 World Junior Championship is underway in Sweden with defending champion Team Canada handling a tough Finnish squad 5-2 in their preliminary round opener. Team USA defeated Norway 4-1.

Top Seattle Kraken prospect Shane Wright was the captain of the Canadian club that won the Gold Medal last year.

The Canucks had three prospects playing for Team Sweden on Tuesday in their 6-0 win over Latvia. Forward Jonathan Lekkerimaki, playing in his 3rd WJC, scored two goals, while Tom Willander and Elias Pettersson saw regular 2nd and 3rd pair shifts.

The tournament is a national TV spectacle with all games being televised on TSN. It’s a labour of love. I worked a couple of the events with that crew years ago and it’s a special experience. The on and off-air group are like family, led by their patriarch of sorts, Paul Graham, more commonly known as “PG”, overseeing the excellent production.

4) Remarkably, and somewhat comically, I’m still not allowed in the press box at Rogers Arena for Vancouver Canucks games. The ban is now 452 days old. Of course, when I asked why, I was originally told “we don’t have to tell you”.

I’m now told it’s because there’s no room for me in the press box and I’m not qualified.

An entertaining full update on this story is coming shortly. It’ll include actual audio of the club’s PR guy threatening to blackmail me. There’s also a new lie.

Welcome to the incestuous, middle school calibre world of Canucks media (relations), which apparently, and again remarkably, has the support of Jim Rutherford, President of Hockey Operations, whom I first met covering the NHL a couple/few decades ago.

5) This is super cool. It’s from December 8th; sorry I’m just getting to it now. Canucks captain Quinn Hughes’s grandfather was a New York City firefighter for three decades.

6) Trivia Time: Who did the Vancouver Millionaires beat in a three-game sweep when they won the Stanley Cup in 1915? (answer at bottom above video)

7) The Canucks are all over the NHL statistical leader boards coming out of the Christmas break with Hughes being the most prominent figure. His 44 points leads all defencemen, five points ahead of 2nd place Cale Makar of the Colorado Avalanche. Hughes is just two assists (34) behind the overall NHL leader, the Avalanche’s centre Nathan MacKinnon.

“Huggy’s” right-handed partner Filip Hronek is tied for 6th with 29 points.

Among forwards and in scoring in general, Canucks centre J.T. Miller is third with 48 points, nine behind leader Nikita Kucherov of the Lightning, while Elias Pettersson is 9th with 43 points.

Vancouver winger Brock Boeser is 2nd in the NHL in goal scoring with 24, four behind leader Auston Matthews of the Toronto Maple Leafs.

Canucks goalie Thatcher Demko ranks 8th in goals against average (2.46), 9th in save percentage (.917) and tied for first in shut-outs (3).

8) Many teams that are chasing the Canucks in the overall NHL standings will make up some games and likely some points over the next week. Vancouver, on top of the league table with 49 points, will get a 4th consecutive day off from games on Wednesday before hosting the Philadelphia Flyers on Thursday night. After four more non-game nights, the Canucks will host the Ottawa Senators on January 2nd before heading out on a seven-game road trip.

The Canucks are tied with five other teams at the moment with the most games played in the NHL, 35.

9) The first great number-9 in hockey was Maurice “Rocket” Richard, who played for the Montreal Canadiens from 1942 to 1960. The Hockey Hall of Famer tallied 966 points in 978 career games and racked up more than 1,200 penalty minutes. The NHL schedule only consisted of 50 games per season when he entered the league, bumped up to 60 in 1946, and then jumped to 70 games per team in 1949.

(It didn’t jump again until 1967 when the league added six more teams and four more games to the calendar)

The Rocket scored 50 goals in 50 games in 1944-’45, and although it came against slightly watered down talent because of the final year of World War II tying up some the league’s best players, it still became the benchmark goal total for star players to reach in future seasons.

As for 50 goals in 50 team games or less, Mike Bossy and Wayne Gretzky (3 times), Mario Lemieux and Brett Hull (twice) all pulled off the feat.

— Trivia Answer: The Millionaires defeated the Ottawa Senators to win the Stanley Cup.

Recent Canucks:

— Canucks On Top Of The NHL With Help From An Angry Elf

— Choosing my favorite video of the season thus far resulted in a three-way tie, with all three being recorded within a week of one another earlier in December before Kraken games. Coaches rarely do this type of thing on a game day, but “Simmer’s Morning Skate” has become a bit of a tradition for some. (Forbidden in Vancouver).

John Hynes of the Wild features comments on taking over a new gig mid-season, Paul Maurice of the Panthers on being the very last player taken in the NHL Draft, and Jon Cooper of the Lightning talking about his championships at five different levels and his wife’s 3 keys to success.

“Simmer’s Morning Skate” with Wild head coach John Hynes.

“Simmer’s Morning Skate” with Panthers head coach Paul Maurice.

“Simmer’s Morning Skate with Lightning head coach Jon Cooper.”

Rob Simpson

Rob Simpson has covered the NHL in five different decades. He’s authored 4 books on hockey and is a veteran TV and radio play-by-play man and reporter.