By: Trent Leith / October 15, 2022
On Thursday the Vancouver Canucks announced that fan favourite defenceman, Kevin Bieksa, will sign a one-day contract with the club to officially retire as a Vancouver Canuck. Bieksa had not played for Vancouver since 2014-15 when he was traded to the Anaheim Ducks.
“I am both honoured and grateful to officially end my NHL career as a Vancouver Canuck,” Bieksa said in a statement to the media. “It was a privilege to start my career with this amazing organization, in this incredible city, with the best fans in the league. I am and always have been a Canuck at heart and it’s fitting I retire as one.”
His wife reiterated this on Instagram saying, “Kevin has always been a Canck at heart. Although we enjoyed our time with the Ducks – we left our hearts in Vancouver! It’s a storybook ending for him to officially retire a Canuck!”
With his retirement ceremony coming up on November 3rd, let’s have a look at his career highlights in the Canucks’ Green and Blue.
The Early Days
Bieksa was drafted in 2001 by the Vancouver Canucks in the fifth round, 151st overall. He would go on to play parts of ten seasons for the Canucks and another three seasons for the Ducks.
Bieksa would play three seasons after his draft in Bowling Green University before going to the Canucks AHL affiliate at the time, the Manitoba Moose. He would play parts of three seasons in Manitoba before becoming a full-time NHLer
Bieksa would amass a respectable 63 goals and 278 points in 808 games in the NHL with a career-high 44-point season in 2011-12
Kevin Bieksa would score the biggest goal of his career in the 2011 postseason. The Canucks were in double overtime against the San Jose Sharks in game five of the conference finals. The Canucks had a commanding 3-1 series lead and were looking to punch their ticket to the Stanley Cup Final for the first time since 1994.
The Canucks were applying pressure in the Sharks’ end when Edler looked to dump the puck around the boards when suddenly everyone lost sight of the puck. Everyone other than Bieksa that is. While the other skaters scrambled to track down the puck, or threw their arms up and looked to the ref for a whistle, the puck appeared seemingly out of nowhere right in front of Bieksa who walked in and hammered a slap shot at the Sharks’ net.
The shot was not pretty, it was not fast, and it was a knuckle puck he barely got on net, yet it remains one of the most important goals in franchise history. It was so important it lives on to this day – over a decade later – in Canucks lore as Wyatt Arndt’s Twitter handle @TheStanchion and the inspiration for his infamous post-game articles, The Stanchies.
In his career, oddly enough, Bieksa had a trackable face-off stat ending his career with exactly 50% in the dot. Nothing to really write home about other than the fact he was a defenceman.
Bieksa made sure to do his best to relieve rookie Kellan Lain from his obligation to fight Kevin Westgarth when the Calgary Flames sent out their fourth line to start the game. Eventually, however, Lain and Westgarth would both pair off anyways.
When the puck dropped, the Flames were sure to immediately jump their Canuck counterparts, but Bieksa made sure to win the draw before engaging in the extracurriculars. Bieksa would win the one-sided draw, bringing his career average to 50%. While a perfectly respectable average, it’s strange that the defenceman took a face-off, let alone two.
Fun Fact: Kellan Lain holds the record for the fastest fight, and fastest game misconduct to start an NHL career.
The line brawl with Calgary was far from Bieksa’s only notable fight in Vancouver. According to Hockeyfights.com, Bieksa fought 43 times in his 10 seasons for the Canucks and tallied another 15 in Anaheim.
Bieksa was not only a solid fighter, he also became known for his “Superman Punch”. He would catch opponents off guard with a fast strike off of the jump and it wasn’t uncommon for the fight to end as soon as that punch landed.
If you can one-shot Radko Gudas, you have the right to retire with whichever team you so choose.
Bieksa has long been a vocal supporter of mental health and the #HockeyTalks campaign. Bieksa has toured schools telling Rick Rypien’s story trying to change how people view mental illness, especially in sports.
Bieksa stressed that being there for those around you without judgement, even if you don’t have a grasp on their struggles, or have any solution to offer, is oftentimes all someone needs.
“As a peer, as a friend, to listen and a lot of the focuses aren’t clear. You can’t see them, so you have to err on the side of caution, listen to what they are saying” Bieksa said. “Because when the time comes you’re going to have to help them get some help.”
“More than anything I was just a sounding board, listening to his problems,” Bieksa would tell students around BC. “Rick just liked to talk things over. His fears, his worries, whatever. And the next day he would feel better.”
Bieksa and Rypien came up through the minors together and even had their NHL debut with the Canucks together and in that time had become close. It took years for Bieksa to get Rick to open up to him, but when he did, Bieksa was always there for him.
Since Rypiens passing, Bieksa has been very vocal and open with his advocacy for mental health.
In Front Of The Camera
Bieksa was a fan favourite during his time in Vancouver by combining his outgoing personality, offensive play and physicality. He always seemed to be joking around and always kept Canucks media on their toes
Once his playing days came to an end, he quickly took that shining personality to the media where he is once again, a fan favourite.
Bieksa even takes his analysis and coverage onto the ice from time to time.
Bieksa would eventually be traded by Jim Benning for a 2016 2nd-round pick that would turn into William Lockwood. Bieksa would go on to put up 37 more points with the Ducks over the course of three seasons before his unofficial retirement.
November 3rd the Canucks will honour one of the most unique people to come through the franchise and many are hoping that he will be inducted into Rogers Arena’s Ring Of Honour one day. The journey started with his first goal, 56 games into his NHL career, and ends once again, on Vancouver Ice.