One of the best defencemen in Canucks history is part of the 2020 class for the BC Hockey Hall of Fame.
1994 was a good year for the Vancouver Canucks. Everyone remembers the legendary run to the Stanley Cup Final, with all of the magical moments, like The Save from Kirk McLean, Pavel Bure’s overtime series winner against the Calgary Flames, “Greg Adams! Greg Adams!”, and “He will play, you know he’ll play, he’ll play on crutches!”
Two weeks after falling agonizingly short of the Cup, the Canucks picked Mattias Ohlund 13th overall in the 1994 NHL Entry Draft.
Ohlund would go on to be the best defenceman in franchise history, at least until he was surpassed by another Canucks draft pick, Alex Edler, who, in turn, could be surpassed in the future by Quinn Hughes.
Ohlund played 11 seasons for the Canucks before finishing his career with two seasons with the Tampa Bay Lightning. Along the way, he set new franchise records for goals and points from a Canucks defenceman, tallying 93 goals and 325 points in 770 regular season games with the Canucks. Both those records have since been broken by Edler.
A key member of the West Coast Express era Canucks, Ohlund was a fantastic all-around defenceman, whose hard-hitting, physical brand of defence made him a fan favourite. He finished second in Calder Trophy voting in 1998, but was named to the NHL’s All-Rookie Team, represented the Canucks at the 1999 All-Star Game, and won four Babe Pratt Trophies as the Canucks’ best defenceman.
Ohlund also won Olympic gold with Sweden in 2006 alongside his Canucks teammates, Daniel and Henrik Sedin.
“To be honest, I think he’s a little underrated back home because he left early,” said Henrik prior to Ohlund being added to the Canucks’ Ring of Honour. “Maybe he’s not regarded as highly as [Nicklas] Lidstrom and those guys, but he’s a top-five defensemen all time [in Sweden]. Maybe his numbers don’t stand out as much, but his defensive play and the things he did to help the team win always stand out for me.”
Beyond his on-ice play, his leadership off the ice made a big difference for younger players like the Sedins and Alex Burrows.
“If we needed something, he was the first to go out of his way to help us out,” said Burrows. “Even though he had a family and young kids at the time, he still made time for his teammates and made sure that we were taken care of properly.”
There’s an element of “what might have been” in Ohlund’s career, as a devastating eye injury wiped out a chunk of his third season and required surgery. He never regained 100% vision in his injured eye, and the upward trajectory of his offensive output seemed to stall after the injury. He was still the team’s top defenceman for years afterwards, but it’s hard to avoid wondering if he could have been even greater.
Ohlund’s name is in the Canucks’ Ring of Honour and now it will go into the BC Hockey Hall of Fame. Ohlund is part of a 2020 class that includes another veteran NHL defenceman, Eric Brewer, who was born in Vernon, BC and had a 16-year NHL career.
The two defencemen will be joined by Jay Sharrers, who was the NHL’s first black on-ice official. Sharrers was born in Jamaica, but raised in Hope, BC, and officiated over 1600 NHL games as well as the 2010 Olympics in Vancouver.
Junior B Hockey builder Ray Stonehouse, who has been involved with Junior hockey in BC for 40 years, is also part of the 2020 class, along with two teams: the 2002 Memorial Cup Champion Kootenay Ice and the record-setting 2011-12 Penticton Vees, which included current Canucks defenceman Troy Stecher. The Vees shattered the North American record for most consecutive wins with 42 that season, going on to win the BCHL championship and the 2012 Doyle Cup.
The 2020 BC Hockey Hall of Fame Induction Dinner will be held Friday, July 24th at the South Okanagan Events Centre in Penticton, BC.