Vancouver Canucks

Home ice advantage

...Vancouver through the player's eyes

January 27, 2020

Robin Horner - @robinhornerbcit

When 19-year-old Quinn Hughes arrived in Vancouver last March, he wasn't too sure what to expect from the city.

"Nervous, anxious. You're in a really big, beautiful city. I stayed in a hotel, I met everyone, was at the rink doing treatment, going to dinner with guys. Nothing too crazy, I got around."

Quinn's father Jim was the Director of Player Development for the Toronto Maple Leafs, so Quinn grew up playing hockey and surrounded by hockey culture. Hughes' mother Ellen also won silver at the 1992 Women's World Hockey Championships, and was named to the tournament all-star team.

Adding that Quinn's brother Jack was drafted first overall in 2019 and youngster Luke Hughes is considered a top prospect for the 2021 NHL Entry Draft, it's safe to say the Hughes family are experts on hockey culture and what it means to be a hockey player.

Still, Quinn says there's a side to moving to a new city that fans don't always see.

"I don't think people realize how hard it is for someone to come in like that," he says about his move to Vancouver.

Still, his teammates were integral to his settling in Vancouver and eventual success on the ice. "In a group like this, they're encouraging, supportive, and welcoming."

Hughes, who appeared in the 2020 NHL All-Star Game in St. Louis, also credits the fans for a smooth transition.

"Fans were great then, they're awesome now. So supportive. Everyone wants to see us do well."

Much like Hughes, Canucks forward Antoine Roussel is just learning what it means to be a Vancouverite.

After signing a four-year contract in July 2018, the fan favourite made his way to Vancouver with another Canucks legend - Alex Burrows.

"Alex Burrows flew with us. It was good timing, he wanted to see the city and his friends. We got dinner and walked through the city and it was funny that he got so recognized, like a rockstar. I thought that was pretty cool."

Since his arrival in Vancouver, Roussel has quickly become a fan favourite for his vehement defence of his teammates and the city. When the Montreal Canadiens came to Rogers Arena in December, Roussel raised eyebrows with his criticism of the Habs jerseys in the crowd, saying, "to be honest, I hate that. There are too many red jerseys here. It pisses me off they way they feel like it's their home. It's our home. Get the hell out of here."

Along with his antics off the ice, Roussel had a career season in 2018/19 with 31 points in 65 games - despite missing the last month of the season with a knee injury - and was the recipient of the Canucks' Fred J. Hume award for Unsung Hero, as voted by the fans.

Moments after his much-anticipated return to the game on December 3rd, Roussel put the puck past former Canucks goaltender Anders Nilsson, followed by a celly to the skies, saluting Alex Burrows in the Ring of Honour.

This season, Roussel has also found inspiration in the changing actions of the fans.

"I found that the fans stay more at the end of the game. We stay and salute the crowd at the end and I think the team wasn't doing that before. You don't see many people leave before the game ends, it's pretty cool."

Since moving to the city in 2018, Roussel has fallen in love with Vancouver, on and off the ice. He says the seawall is a family favourite, particularly amongst his kids.

"We love the seawall. Biking, taking the kids outdoors. I could really see myself living here after my career."

While most of the Canucks call Vancouver a second home, there are a select few who know Vancouver like the back of their hands.

One of them is Richmond, BC native Troy Stecher. Before signing with the Canucks in 2016, he played three seasons with the Penticton Vees of the BCHL before heading to the University of North Dakota for three more seasons.

"I lived at my friend's place for five years in the summertime when I'd come back [from junior], at Oak and 41st so kind of Vancouver proper, near Queen Elizabeth Park. So it wasn't far from downtown, so I'd kind of experience all the same things I did as a kid, like go to Canadians games, Whitecaps games in the summer, ride the seawall. For me, it was just coming home"

Now 25, Stecher notes that Vancouver itself is a motivator, with the Pacific Ocean just outside his front door.

"I get so excited to wake up in the morning and take the dog out and feel the ocean breeze."

Making their last playoff appearance in 2014/2015, the team has spent the past years rebuilding, reworking, and finding their groove. It's been a time of transition, as the team finds an identity in a changing league.

Now in his fourth season with the team, the Canucks defenseman is proud to call Vancouver home.

"Playing at this level, you get to experience different cities all the time when you're travelling playing road games. Doing that has been really unique to experience different cultures, different cities, what they believe in. At the same time, it's just given me an appreciation of Vancouver so much more and how beautiful a city it actually is."

"To me, it's the most beautiful city in the world. Pretty biased because I'm from here, but I truly do believe that."