Retired Vancouver Canucks captain Stan Smyl, distance runner and torch bearer Pat Johnson and current Canuck Chris Higgins (left to right) run one kilometre of the 2013 BC Law Enforcement Torch Run for Special Olympics BC along Granville Street on Wednesday, June 5, 2013. The Games will take place in Langley from July 11 to July 14, involving more than 3,900 athletes.
Photograph by: Ric Ernst, PNG
VANCOUVER — Like many hockey players, Vancouver Canucks winger Chris Higgins is happy to support various charitable endeavours whenever he can. On Wednesday, he participated in the Law Enforcement Torch Run for B.C. Special Olympics, a cause close to his heart as his older sister Jeanne is a Special Olympian in New York, their hometown.
Higgins took some time following the run — Stan Smyl, mascot Finn and communications vice president T.C. Carling also participated — to chat about the Special Olympics, the Canucks’ coaching situation and the new rule changes coming to the NHL.
QUESTION: What do the Special Olympics mean to you on a personal level?
HIGGINS: “It's been a blessing for my sister and my family so anytime I can help out this cause, I'm going to do it. I think getting the message out that if there are parents out there who want to get their son or daughter involved in Special Olympics, it's available to them. My sister is 31 now and she's been swimming for about 15 years. She wanted to have something to do after school and it was a great outlet for her. It's been an amazing blessing. Not only has she become a better swimmer, she's made a lot of friends and grown as a person out of the pool.”
Q: Two weeks ago, Canucks management fired head coach Alain Vigneault and assistants Rick Bowness and Newell Brown. You played 160 games, including playoffs, under that regime. What’s your reaction to AV's dismissal?
HIGGINS: “I only have great things to say about Alain. It's been a great couple of years for me. I think he's treated everyone like a professional and it's sad to see him go because I thought he was a great coach. As far as the kind of coach we need, that's not my decision. I know the coach coming in will be a lucky guy because he's got a great group of guys to coach. I think he should be happy about that.”
Q: Management cited the last two first-round playoffs as an indication the players needed to hear a new voice. What's your take on that?
HIGGINS: “I think the players always take it on themselves. I don't think you look to the coach for motivation. You made the NHL for a reason and that's because you're a pretty self-motivated individual. I think the players take it very personally, especially on this team, when the coach gets fired. It's tough because you feel you let them down. I think a lot of the guys on the team have the same feeling.”
Q: On Tuesday, the NHL's competition committee voted to make visors mandatory for all new players entering the league but grandfathered it for anyone who has played 25 games. Are in you in favour of this development?
HIGGINS: “From a personal standpoint, I think it's a great decision to grandfather it. I mean, I understand that guys want the choice but I just think after you see what happened to Manny (Malhotra), there is no way to get around that. I've always worn one.
Q: Another new wrinkle coming from the competition committee is a shallower net. You'll still be shooting at the same four-by-six but there will be four inches shaved off the back of the net to allow a little more room to manoeuvre and make plays. Do you think that will help generate offence?
HIGGINS: “I'm sure Hank and Danny will like that. They'll take any inch you give them and I'm sure they'll find a way to exploit it. So I'll just watch and see what they're doing and pick up some lessons. I'm usually in front of the net, not behind it, so we'll see if it changes anything for me. I don't know how much it's going to help.”
Q: The third innovation is the hybrid icing rule which, hopefully, will eliminate races for the puck that result in injury when one player pokes his stick at the puck but winds up tripping the opponent and spilling him into the boards. Do you like the idea of hybrid icing, or would you prefer no-touch icing? No-touch icing would eliminate certain plays like Henrik's long diagonal pass off the end boards to Danny.
HIGGINS: “Exactly. That's why you want a little bit of a race for the puck, to be able to have that opportunity to make those kind of plays. I think there needs to be some sort of race, although I don't know at what point the whistle would go. I'm not in favour of no-touch icing because it would be just another thing that limits your ability to play offence. But certainly anything to make it a safer play, I think a lot of players would be for that.”
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