It was fan appreciation night at Rogers Arena on Saturday, and the Vancouver Canucks put on a show.
In one of the more entertaining games of the 2022-23 season, the Canucks delivered a big blow to playoff chances of one of their division rivals, scoring a 3-2 shootout win over the Calgary Flames.
After the game, the final one to be played at Rogers Arena this season, players gathered at centre ice and Quinn Hughes grabbed the microphone.
It’s a job usually reserved for the captain, but Vancouver has been without one since Bo Horvat was traded to the New York Islanders.
Elias Pettersson is probably the favourite to be the next Canuck to wear the C, but Hughes is a strong contender also. So it was notable to see him take on a captain’s duty.
“It’s a treat playing for you guys,” Quinn Hughes says to #Canucks fans. pic.twitter.com/oNNyb3CCOV
— Rob Williams (@RobTheHockeyGuy) April 9, 2023
“On behalf of my teammates and the organization, I just want to thank the fans for an incredible year,” Hughes said, as he was greeted with cheers from Canucks fans in attendance. “It’s an honour to be a Canuck. Hopefully we can come out strong for you guys next year. It’s a treat playing for you guys, and we’re looking forward to it. Thank you.”
"Just want to thank the fans for an incredible year and it's an honour to be a Canuck."
Quinn Hughes addresses the crowd after Fan Appreciation Night! pic.twitter.com/0Zm0xGTylw
— Vancouver Canucks (@Canucks) April 9, 2023
Hughes downplayed the honour post-game, noting that he was one of just a few players that could have been asked to speak.
“I know that we have a bunch of guys that can do that,” Hughes told reporters. “Petey of course, he’s a leader. Millsy of course, he’s probably the most outspoken out of all of us. Demko, I think for sure he’s a leader. Even though he’s a goalie, I think he’s earned that right as well. And we’ve got older guys like [Tyler Myers] that can definitely do that. So, it means a lot but it’s not like we’re in here [fighting over who gets to speak]. It’s not that big of a deal. Next time I’ll let Petey or Millsy speak.”
Head coach Rick Tocchet was unaware that Hughes had been asked to speak, but spoke glowingly about his star defenceman, both as a competitor and an emerging leader.
“He’s a very competitive kid. He wants to win so bad. That’s impressed me,” said Tocchet. “He’s a hockey nerd. He loves hockey. He’ll probably go hang with his brother, he might try to skate with the black aces for New Jersey, because he wants to play so bad… He’s been a pleasure to coach. [Adam Foote] loves him.”
Hughes has already broken his own Canucks single-season defenceman scoring record, with 73 points in 75 games.
Though he is usually soft spoken, Tocchet has mentioned numerous times over the past few weeks about how the 23-year-old blueliner is becoming more vocal with his teammates.
Along with Pettersson, Tocchet made Hughes an alternate captain after Horvat was traded, and it appears that the defenceman is taking on the challenge of becoming a leader.
“I don’t go in very often after a game, but [there were] a couple of players telling me that [Hughes is] pretty vocal in there,” Tocchet said. “He wasn’t four months, three months ago. He [was] a little more quiet. He’s taken that personally, that he wants to be a vocal guy in the room. His personality, he’s not a big talker. But I think for him to get out of his comfort zone is huge for our team.”
Asked if he could be captain of the team, Tocchet said “he’s got the qualities.”
“He definitely has the qualities.”
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