If there’s one thing we learned after Wednesday’s Canucks home opener, it’s that fans still have a soft spot for Todd Bertuzzi.
Making a surprise appearance as part of the 50th anniversary celebration, Bertuzzi skating onto the ice in old Canucks colours elicited a special reaction from those in attendance at Rogers Arena. The ovation for Bertuzzi was the loudest of the night, which is saying something given the ceremony also included Kirk McLean in full 90s Canucks gear, the appearance of Henrik and Daniel Sedin, and the anointing of Bo Horvat as the team’s new captain.
Fans still love Big Bert, and they don’t care much about the optics of it outside of Vancouver. This, coupled with his outstanding Canucks career are the reason he belongs in the team’s Ring of Honour.
Best power forward in Canucks history
Bertuzzi isn’t just the best power forward in Canucks history, for a period of 2-3 years, he was the best power forward in the entire National Hockey League.
Seemingly an unstoppable force, Bertuzzi’s combination of size and skill were unmatched. It helped him score 25+ goals five times with the Canucks, and saw him finish third in NHL scoring in 2001-02 and fifth the following year. His 97-point season in 2002-03 is the highest point total amassed by a Canucks player not named Sedin, Bure, Mogilny, or Naslund.
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Bertuzzi finished fifth in MVP voting in 2003, behind the likes of Peter Forsberg, Markus Naslund, Martin Brodeur, and Joe Thornton. That’s how dominant he was.
He ranks ninth all-time in Canucks scoring with 449 points in 518 games, which is extra impressive given he accomplished it almost entirely during the dead puck era.
Seven of the eight Canucks that rank ahead of Bertuzzi on the all-time points list have been honoured in some fashion (number retired or Ring of Honour). The only exception is Tony Tanti, who admittedly racked up a lot of points during the high-scoring eighties.
No conversation about celebrating Bertuzzi can be had without discussing March 8, 2004.
In seeking retribution for what was seen as a cheap shot on Markus Naslund, Bertuzzi ended Steve Moore’s career with a punch to the head. He crossed the line and paid a price for it – certainly not the same price Moore had to pay – but it forever marred his career going forward.
It was also over 15 years ago.
For better or worse, fans in Vancouver stuck by Bertuzzi’s side. This was not a player that demanded a trade and he never said a bad word about the city. Bertuzzi, for his part, never said a bad word about the team – even after he was traded to Florida in 2006.
So Bertuzzi didn’t need to repair a relationship with Canucks fans.
The only question that deserves asking is if fans feel comfortable attaching ‘honour’ to a player that did such a dishonourable act. If you were at Rogers Arena on Wednesday night, you know the answer to that.
Ring of Honour requirements
The Ring of Honour is a fairly new concept, with the team inducting the first four players during the 2010-11 season.
Since then, two players have been added, with a third (Alex Burrows) coming in December:
- Orland Kurtenbach (2010)
- Kirk McLean (2010)
- Thomas Gradin (2011)
- Harold Snepsts (2011)
- Pat Quinn (2014)
- Mattias Ohlund (2016)
- Alex Burrows (2019)
Officially, the team says the Ring of Honour is meant to “celebrate Canucks heroes who have made a lasting impact on the franchise.”
That’s a vague description, which likely helps to explain why some players with less-than-impressive stat lines have made it in.
From Bertuzzi to Bo, opening night was a special one for #Canucks fans
— Offside (@OffsideDH) October 12, 2019
Orland Kurtenbach was the team’s first-ever captain and was the expansion team’s MVP during their first three seasons. But he only played four seasons in Vancouver and ranks 51st in franchise scoring.
Harold Snepsts was a fan favourite and had a long NHL career, but he was not a star player — scoring 195 points in 781 career games with the Canucks.
No disrespect to Kurtenbach or Snepsts, who are respected members of the franchise, but you could argue that players like Tanti (eighth all-time in scoring with 470 points in 531 games) and Don Lever (10th all-time in points with 407 points in 593 games), as well as defencemen Jyrki Lumme and Dennis Kearns (tied for third in all-time Canucks scoring with 321 points) had bigger impacts on the franchise.
So if we accept that popularity plays a part in getting into the Ring of Honour, let that be settled after the ovation for Bertuzzi. Given that Burrows is going to be inducted, having a choir boy reputation also doesn’t appear to be a prerequisite.
The fans love Bertuzzi and the numbers back him up. Now it’s time for the team to recognize him too. Put the big guy in the Ring of Honour where he belongs.