Canucks appeal to the heart tonight

The Vancouver Canucks open the 2011-12 season on Thursday night with a home game against the Pittsburgh Penguins.

The Vancouver Canucks open the 2011-12 season on Thursday night with a home game against the Pittsburgh Penguins.

The Penguins will be without superstar Sidney Crosby, who continues to recover from a concussion suffered last January. Still, the Penguins remain a formidable opponent with Marc Andre Fleury in net and a rejuevenated Evgeni Malkin ready to lead the charge.

The Canucks open the season short-handed as well, with Selke Trophy winner Ryan Kesler and second line winger Mason Raymond out to start the season (though Kesler may be back sooner rather than later). That will not make it any easier for the Canucks to overcome their usual slow October start.

Thursday’s game will feature a lengthy though likely somewhat subdued opening ceremonies. They will celebrate last season, the best in the franchise’s 40 year history, but will also take time “to heal.”

Center ice will feature the seven major trophies the Canucks won last year, including the President’s Trophy as the league’s best team in the regular season, the Clarence Campbell Bowl as Western Conference champion and the Daniel Sedin’s Art Ross Trophy as the league’s leading scorer.

The new season will begin with the launching of an all new slogan, “Heart of the Canucks.” Following last season’s Stanley Cup riot the Canucks wanted to open the season appropriately, and will thank emergency officials and volunteers. Police officers, firefighters paramedics and citizens acknowledged for their role in cleaning up after the riot the following day will be recognized at center ice.

It is all part of “a season of healing,” says Canucks general manager Mike GIllis. Throughout their 41st season the franchise will honour British Columbians who display “the heart of a Canuck” with a new local heroes program. Details are still forthcoming, but people in communities right across BC can be nominated for making a difference in their community, regardless if it is tied to hockey or not.

The Canucks will also pay tribute to Rick Rypien, who passed away this past summer. Rypien has spent parts of the past six seasons with the Canucks, though had just signed with the Winnipeg Jets prior to his death. The Canucks will fully honour Rypien on October 18th against the New York Rangers, rightfully giving him the full spotlight on that night.

Opening Night Game Notes:

  • The Canucks are 21-16-3 all time on opening nights.
  • The last time the Canucks opened the season against Pittsburgh was way back in 1976. Rick Blight scored four goals in that game. Interestingly the Penguins won that game, 9-5.
  • That set a team record for most goals on opening night. Greg Adams matched the record in 1988 in an 8-2 win over St. Louis.
  • The Canucks are 36-57-11-1 all time against Pittsburgh.

On This Date In Canucks History: October 6th, 2002 – Welcomed by royal trumpets and red carpets, Queen Elizabeth II dropped the puck for the ceremonial faceoff for the exhibition game between the Canucks and San Jose Sharks. Wayne Gretzky accompanied her majesty to center ice.

Joe Pelletier is a freelance hockey writer based in Terrace. Check out his website GreatestHockeyLegends.com and his new ebook atPucksOnTheNet.com. You can also follow him on Twitter @HockeyLegends