Vancouver Canucks

Luke Schenn's Revival

…On-ice contributions matched only by his impact off the ice

December 30, 2022

By Noah Strang - @noahstrang_

There are many factors that go into a successful NHL team.  

Some of these are easily measured. Having high-scoring forwards, the goalies with the best save percentage, and shutdown defencemen. In a league with so much parity, however, it's often the factors that we can't measure that make the ultimate difference.

Being a leader, being a great teammate, being a good person; those are skills that don't show up in the box score but can change the course of a season.  

Luke Schenn is having an outstanding year for the Vancouver Canucks. He's eating up a ton of minutes, producing at a career-high rate, and frustrating oncoming attacks. It's off the ice, however, where the 33-year-old veteran defenceman is making some of his largest contributions to the team. 

It's hard to find a better professional than Schenn. At an age when most NHL players start to fall off, he's having the most successful season of his 15-year career, and it's in no small part due to his off-ice character and impact. 

Location: Rogers Arena

Time: 8:52 PM, December 3rd, 2022

"Luke, Luke, Luke"  

Rogers Arena has erupted into a chant, even as the boards continue to rattle. Luke Schenn has just laid a thumping bodycheck on his former teammate Jakob Chychrun, becoming the NHL's all-time leader in hits by a defenceman. 

The Canucks play a highlight montage on the jumbotron to honour the milestone and Schenn struggles to conceal his smile, waving to acknowledge the crowd. 

This wouldn't have been the record he picked to hold when he was drafted more than a decade ago, but Schenn's name is now etched into the history books.

"It's not something that you really set to do when you're coming into the league," he commented when asked about the record. "The cool thing is it's not necessarily [about] the number but the guys at the top of that list are, I think, honest guys."

Never one to be arrogant, Schenn humbly credits teammates and past mentors for helping him reach this point. He's always been there for his teammates, on or off the ice. That's something that doesn't go unnoticed by Canucks fans. 

Location: Tampa Bay, Florida

Time: 10:14 PM, July 7th, 2021

Luke Schenn takes a lap of the ice, the weight of the Stanley Cup above his head offset by adrenaline. The Tampa Bay Lightning have just won their second consecutive Stanley Cup and Schenn has been a significant member of both teams. 

When a defenceman is taken with the fifth pick in the NHL draft, there are certain expectations for how his career will go. Schenn never reached that individual level of success, but he found a way to be a contributing member of a championship team. 

Having multiple Stanley Cup rings is an achievement that every NHL player dreams of, but very few accomplish. Schenn has now put his name on hockey's greatest prize.

It had been three years since Schenn was demoted to the AHL. Since then, he'd managed to resurrect his career, pulling himself from the bottom of the hockey world to the top. This range of experiences would prove invaluable over the coming years. It helped him relate to players at different stages in their journey. 

"I've been on top, raising the Stanley Cup above my head and feeling the highest of highs [with] winning a championship. [I've also been at] a low point where you're in the minors for the first time 10 years into your career. [I can] relate to the young guys who are first or second-year pros and are just trying to make the NHL. I think that's the fun part in being able to relate to guys who have family and kids and also being able to relate to guys who are in their first years and young." 

Location: Somewhere in the Sky

Time: 7:54 PM, November 22nd, 2022

The Canucks team plane lifts off heading toward the east coast. The core of the team is primarily made up of young players. Stars like Quinn Hughes and Elias Pettersson have only a few seasons of NHL experience. 

Besides the core group, the Canucks also have plenty of players making the transition to becoming regular NHLers. While it's difficult to adjust to the increased size and speed on the ice, finding a way to be consistent for 82 games and handling the off-ice challenges can be even harder.

For the young players looking for direction, there's no better example than Schenn. 

"There's a good amount of young guys on this team so his presence and just being someone you can always look to and know he's doing the right thing goes a long way," said Dakota Joshua, a forward currently navigating the challenge to full-time NHLer himself.  

Location: Elisa Steakhouse

Time: 8:12 PM, September 18th, 2022

Joshua takes his seat as he's greeted by a mountain of food on the table. Over the next few minutes, the other Canucks will fill out the rest of the seats. 

As an elder statesman on the team, Schenn has taken it upon himself to plan the team dinners. These act as a time when the guys can come together and get to know each other away from the rink. 

"He's a good dinner planner. I got a chance to play with his brother who also loved to plan dinners so I'd love to go to the Schenn house for dinner sometime," Joshua said. 

While planning team dinners may not be explicitly written in Schenn's contract, he takes it upon himself to go the extra mile. There are a few rules that he makes sure every dinner abides by. 

"[I'm] making sure that everything is set up before they get there," noted Schenn. "Everything is family style, just throw everything on the menu on the table, have lots of laughs, and make sure everyone is included. You don't want to stress out about the game the next day, it's all about getting to know your teammates and having a good time." 

Location: Canucks Home Dressing Room

Time: 11:15 AM, December 3rd, 2022

As Luke Schenn comes off the ice after the morning skate, he finds an aspiring sports journalist waiting for him at his stall. 

After just a brief 15-minute conversation, Schenn's presence and poise stand out. It's clear how much he cares about his teammates, as well as how much effort he puts into bringing the team closer together. 

"You want to try to get to know guys personally and ask them about their families or their backgrounds. Just try to get to know the guys as guys." 

Building relationships off the ice and developing that team chemistry takes effort, but it's also what sport is all about. From the top level all the way down, every hockey player can relate to the relationships the game creates. Schenn's doing it on a larger stage. 

"At the end of the day, I don't remember 95% of guys' games or plays they make, good or bad," remarked Schenn. "I remember the stories that guys tell. You always want to remember guys as good guys [first] and a hockey player second."