Former Canucks defenceman Willie Mitchell bound for B.C. Hockey Hall of Fame


Willie Mitchell played four seasons with the Canucks.

Willie Mitchell played four seasons with the Canucks.

Photograph by: Jeff Vinnick, The Province

Willie Mitchell never met a microphone he didn’t like — in the locker-room.

However, at a podium press conference Tuesday, the talkative former Vancouver Canucks defenceman was almost at a loss for words. Almost.

Mitchell joins the 2018 class of inductees to the B.C. Hockey Hall of Fame along with Scott Hannan, Gerry Sillers and the 1980 Burnaby Lakers, who won the Canadian intermediate A championship. The inductees will be honoured on July 20 in Penticton.

Mitchell’s induction reflects a passion for his native Port McNeill, his four seasons with the high-octane Canucks and the tutelage of Hall of Fame players turned coaches in Jacques Lemaire and Larry Robinson during his 907 career National Hockey League games with six teams.

“What’s big for me is my hometown,” the 40-year-old Mitchell said of the north Vancouver Island community of 2,500. “I’m proud of being from there. I’m proud of all the volunteers. I’m really happy to represent my hometown so the kids from there can understand because we’re so remote.

“When you put a little work in and get the same support that I did, there are some fun things you can do out there in life whether it’s hockey or something else — and that’s pretty cool for me.”

Mitchell played on Canucks teams that sported high-end offence, a stacked defence and Roberto Luongo, but could never take that next step. The Canucks lost in the Western Conference semifinals on three occasions during Mitchell’s time here from 2006-07 to 2009-10 and missed the playoffs once.

“It was the best team I played on that didn’t go the distance,” said Mitchell, who won two Stanley Cup titles with the Los Angeles Kings and a gold medal at the world championship. “We had a great team here. Everyone who played understood that and sometimes you don’t realize it until you walk away.

“It’s the one thing I regret in my career because I know in B.C. how much it would mean to the province for the Canucks to win.”

Mitchell had 58 points (10-48) and 233 penalty minutes in 264 games with the Canucks and the foundation for his longevity came from the guidance of Lemaire in Minnesota and Robinson in New Jersey.

“I couldn’t have come into a better environment,” added Mitchell, who logged 907 career NHL games and compiled 180 points (34-146) and 787 penalty minutes. “I was smart enough to be a sponge and learn off those guys. I wasn’t the most skilled player but understood the game well.”

Hannan was born in Richmond and played his minor hockey in Surrey. He was also a product of the Kelowna Rockets, who had several defencemen graduate to the NHL, and logged 1,055 career games with five teams in carving out a reputation as a hard-rock defender.

“This (induction) hasn’t had time to sink in,” said the 39-year-old Hannan, who had 217 career points (38-179) and 625 penalty minutes. “You look back and it goes by in a flash and it’s a great honour. You remember your first game and your first goal and what was the first big win you had.

“I’m going through it now with coaching my kids at the eight and five-year-old level to see how important that is and how important it was the coaches I had in Jim Russell and Bob Porter.”

Sillers turned pro with the Western Hockey League Canucks in 1969-70 and played four seasons with the NHL Canucks affiliate in the AHL. Recently retired after 28 years as the Canucks Alumni president, he helped raise more than $2 million for charities and hockey initiatives.

Willie Mitchell played four seasons with the Canucks.

Willie Mitchell played four seasons with the Canucks.

Photograph by: Jeff Vinnick, The Province

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