As we approach Saturday night’s retirement of Markus Naslund’s jersey to the Rogers Arena rafters, there hasn’t been a shortage of tributes to the former Canucks captain and franchise leader in many statistical categories, including points and goals scored.
Indeed, the Canucks have a page dedicated to stories, moments and videos about him. They even have a “#19 in the City” contest asking fans to submit photos of Nazzy’s #19 in a bunch of creative ways.
Today, your favorite Canucks bloggers take a turn and look back at some of their favorite moments of Naslund in a Canucks uniform.
One of my favorite Naslund moments was against the Toronto Maple Leafs early in the Westcoast Express years. The Canucks were down 5-1 going into the third period before they mounted a furious comeback. They had cut the deficit to 5-4 with about a minute left in the game, and with the goalie pulled (come to think of it I’m pretty sure both Canucks goalies rotated in and out a couple of times during the game), Naslund took a breakaway pass and tied the game. The Canucks eventually lost the game in OT, but Naslund showed then how much of a gamebreaker he was. In fact, in the year that followed, he recorded the first of three 40-goal seasons in his career.
My favourite Naslund moment is split between two games.
The first was his four-goal effort against the Oilers in which he scored the OT winner and the next day’s sports headline in the Sun read “Naslund 4 – Oilers 3″.
The other was in a game against Detroit in ’03, I believe. The Canucks were down 3-0 at the start of the period and Naslund scored the game-tying goal with 24.3 seconds left after a fortunate bounce off the referee’s skate. Malik scored the OT winner, and watching that game I fell in love with Naslund.
Although I’m probably one of just 19 people who believe this to be the case, my favourite moment in Markus’ career with the Canucks was the night he told the fans his feelings about the evening’s tilt with the LA Kings, “We choked!”
Many, if not everyone, seemed to pillory Nazzy for making such a defeatist statement. Others said it showed how a Swede couldn’t lead a team in the NHL as it alluded to a lack of leadership. And yet I thought it was quite refreshing to see a team’s leader take hold of the situation and admit what every fan was thinking. In a league where nearly every player interview is a mishmash of cliche and anecdote, the Canucks had one of the few who was willing to say how it really was.
Two words: “We choked.” After a loss that would cost the Canucks both the Northwest Division title and the Art Ross trophy, Naslund said that to an upset Vancouver crowd. It seems crazy today that, despite witnessing the greatest regular season in Canucks history (led by arguably the greatest Canuck ever in his greatest season), Canuck fans could feel ripped, disappointed in their team and captain. But we were. And so was Markus Naslund. With these two words, he showed that he had the same immense expectations as anybody. He was one of us. People questioned his leadership. But if the most honest answer in Canucks history doesn’t exemplify leadership, I don’t know what does.
The Markus Naslund moment which has stayed in my mind for years was his dazzling end-to-end rush against the Ottawa Senators. The Canucks captain started in his own end and blitzed through all of the opposing skaters before unleashing a lethal wrister. Canucks fans missed that Markus Naslund towards the twilight of his time in Vancouver. Now, Canucks fans just miss Markus Naslund.
My favorite Naslund moment is like asking which ice girl do I like staring at the most: there’s too many to chose from. So the simplest would be the last game of the 1996 campaign when Naslund – who was pointless in just a handful of games for the Canucks – notched his first hat trick in the final game of the season. That win over the Flames pushed the Canucks into the playoffs just as the season ended. At the time I was getting ready for high school graduation and one final summer before college. The internet was just becoming a household tool, so entrenched in New York I still relied on small blurbs in the very back of the newspaper to keep me informed. But I remember thinking “hey we got this young Swedish guy…cool.”
Of course I didn’t know that the Canucks would lose in the first round to Colorado. I didn’t know it would be their final time in the post season for all four years I was in college. I didn’t know Mark Messier and Mike Keenan would make Vancouver abysmal. At the same time, I didn’t know that young Swedish guy would go on to score the most goals and points of any player in franchise history. He’d be the engine behind the West Coast Express and one of the longest serving captains too. Though it all he had a certain grace: this quiet, humble guy who could skate so fast, cut in near the top of the circle, kick the leg and fire off a wrister that fooled countless poor netminders.
I honestly can’t pick just one favourite Markus Naslund moment. I have 100 small moments. He’s why I watch hockey in the first place. His wrist shot and goal scoring and fancy skating hooked me and made me fall head over heels for the Canucks (some days I should curse him for that!). Naslund is why I started my first blog when I was homesick at school in Saskatoon for the Canucks and BC and why I write for Canucks Hockey Blog. Hearing about his work in the community over the years has inspired me to give to Canucks Place whenever I can. I really should buy this lovely man a beer and thank him for giving me my love of hockey and so much more.
My favorite memory of Naslund was him being a force skating up ice with the puck after the Flames failed to get the empty net goal, Naslund shooting on net, and Matt Cooke getting the rebound in Game 7 against the Flames that sent the game to overtime. The camera shot of Jovanovski going crazy in the penalty box was priceless.
We didn’t end up winning the game or the series, but the goal that tied that game with 5.7 seconds left made my heart stop for a few seconds.
My favourite Markus Naslund moment wasn’t anything he did on the ice, but the result of an injury he incurred on March 16, 2001. In that game against Buffalo, on the road, Markus Naslund broke his leg. At the time of the injury, Naslund was tied for 3rd in NHL goal scoring with 41 and the Canucks were in tough to make the playoffs.
The team’s next home game produced my favourite moment, when Naslund appeared in the area where the zamboni comes out. He was shown on the video screen in the arena and the crowd rose to their feet to salute Markus. He returned the favour, genuinely touched, and raised a crutch to the crowd.