Ed Willes: Canucks players open up on their favourite Christmas presents

 

 
 
 
 
Fans check out the Christmas photos of Brandon Sutter, Bo Horvat and Henrik Sedin.
 
 

Fans check out the Christmas photos of Brandon Sutter, Bo Horvat and Henrik Sedin.

Photograph by: Jeff Vinnick, The Province

This project was initially undertaken on Dec. 24, 1999 and the first respondents included Murray Baron, Bill Muckalt, Marc Crawford and, we’re proud to report, Zenith Komarniski.

The second attempt came a decade later in December of 2010 and featured Jeff Tambellini, Henrik Sedin, Keith Ballard and the always festive Ryan Kesler.

Seven years later, we now present a new generation of Canucks to tell the stories of their favourite Christmas presents. It’s an eclectic, seemingly disparate group but they would appear to share one common trait.

At this time of the year they’re all 12-years-old again.

“It was an orange bike, my first two-wheeler. We had a three-story house and Christmas was on the main floor. I remember running down the stairs and it was there. It wasn’t wrapped because it was too big. I was pretty excited.”

Stecher reports he was seven or eight at the time.

He’s asked about his favourite hockey present.

“I got my first pair of hockey roller blades. They had the Bauer boots and skate laces. I remember taking them outside right away and whipping around the gravel and tearing up the wheels. That wasn’t too popular with my parents.”

“It was a GT racer (a modernistic sled contraption which came out about 20 years ago). I remember that because we were doing an appearance the other day and I was on top of a mountain. I would have killed to have my GT racer. We were outside with that thing for a week straight. We lived pretty close to Beaconsfield Golf Course (in Montreal). They had a great hill there.”

“The one that sticks in my mind was my Xbox 360. That started my whole addiction to Xbox. NHL ’12 was my go-to game.”

When Boeser uses the term addiction, he’s not exaggerating.

“I was ranked 120th in the world in NHL ’12 (out of literally hundreds of thousands of players). I used to take pride in it. I’d go through the whole leaderboard and challenge the best guys in the game. I beat the No. 3 guy in NHL ’13.”

But he never played Thatcher Demko, the Canucks’ goaltending prospect who was ranked as high as ninth in the virtual world.

“We roomed together at training camp this year and got NHL ’18. We played a lot. We got up to 90th in the world.”

And didn’t once break curfew.

“My first (one-piece) graphite hockey stick. We had a rink in my backyard so the minute I got it, I taped it up and used it. It was hard for my parents. How do you wrap a hockey stick and make it a surprise? It has a distinctive shape. I kind of knew it was coming but I was still pretty excited.

“I didn’t end up sticking with it because I preferred the wood blade. I was particular about sticks even when I was 10. My dad (Dave, who played 946 career games including his last 33 with the Canucks) used a wood stick until the last couple of years of his career. He  got (a graphite) and he couldn’t believe how hard his shot came off.”

“My first composite shaft. I’d been using wooden sticks for awhile and this was big. I remember it was a graphite shaft with a wooden blade at the end — a Mike Modano curve. It was an Easton Ultra-Lite.

“The first thing I did was take that stick to the outdoor rink (in his hometown of Orleans, a suburb of Ottawa) on Christmas Day. I was back at 9:30 at night. I didn’t even come home for Christmas dinner.”

Gudbranson was told Gagner’s favourite present was a one-piece composite stick as opposed to his model which was substantially cheaper.

“He had a one-piece? Lucky guy. Must be nice. My parents had four kids and they all played hockey so they weren’t going to start that trend too early.”

“In bantam, I had some really worn down skates and I got these all-white skates — Easton 777s. I was pretty fired up about that. No one else had a pair like them. I was the only guy in bantam to have white skates. Terrible style. I realize that now but at the time they were special.”

Before you ask, Virtanen has never seen pictures of the old California Golden Seals and their magnificent white skates. He does, however, reach for his phone to show a clip of him racing Winnipeg Jets draft pick Nic Petan in a skills competition at a bantam all-star game.

“I mean there was no black on those skates anywhere. They were pure white. And I had a good year that year. Maybe I should change and go back to them now.”

He’s joking. We think.

That brings us around to our own family and our favourite gift: our first grandchild, baby Anna. True, at two-months old, she doesn’t completely understand everything going on around here — or why she now has 73 onesies in her closet. But to see her, to see the perfect innocence and the light within her, is to be reminded of the essence of Christmas and the hope that one child can change the world.

Best to you and yours this holiday season.

ewilles@postmedia.com

 
 
 
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Fans check out the Christmas photos of Brandon Sutter, Bo Horvat and Henrik Sedin.
 

Fans check out the Christmas photos of Brandon Sutter, Bo Horvat and Henrik Sedin.

Photograph by: Jeff Vinnick, The Province

 
Fans check out the Christmas photos of Brandon Sutter, Bo Horvat and Henrik Sedin.
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