As far as consolation prizes go, Brock Boeser got a dandy.
Friday afternoon Boeser, a forward in his sophomore season at the University of North Dakota, was playing in the quarterfinals of the NCAA men’s hockey tournament. Boeser and the Fighting Hawks lost to the Terriers 4-3 in double overtime, opening the door for Boeser to join the Canucks.
Logistics, you’re thinking, must have been a nightmare. And they were. After spending some time with teammates post-game, Boeser signed an entry-level contract with the Canucks Friday night and Saturday morning his UND coach Brad Berry drove him to the airport for a short hour flight from Fargo, North Dakota, to Saint Paul. Boeser’s agent Ben Hankinson picked him up from the airport and by the time he arrived at the Xcel Energy Center, the NHL had approved the contract and he was officially a Canucks forward.
“It was a grind, that’s for sure,” said Boeser, who was born in Burnsville, Minnesota, 15-minutes south of downtown St. Paul. “It was all worth it.”
Boeser, the 23rd overall pick in the 2015 draft, wore No. 16 at UND, but that number is kind of off limits with the Canucks. Alas he became the first forward and 12th Canucks player to wear No. 6, in a tribute to his friend Ty Alyea, a former baseball teammate who died in a vehicle accident in 2014.
There were a lot of questions in the Vancouver dressing room when the team arrived and there was a No. 6 jersey and helmet in a player stall.
“Who’s number six?” asked Brandon Sutter. “The new guy,” someone responded. “We got a new guy?!”
It wasn’t long before Boeser was kicking the soccer ball around with the guys. He didn’t look nervous in the least; it could have been his 100th NHL game coming up instead of his first.
Boeser was again cool as can be when forced to skate a solo rookie lap during pre-game warm-up – without a helmet. Someone hid it, so he was bucketless until the team hit the ice.
The nerves got the best of Boeser pre-game, however.
His dad, Duke, and mother, Laurie, were honorary Canucks in the dressing room before the team went out to start the game. They surprised their son and read the Canucks starting line-up, leaving Boeser’s name for last.
“They totally surprised me,” said Boeser, post-game. “I never expected them to get that opportunity. It meant a lot to me.”
Duke was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease in 2010 and is unable to work after spending 31 years as the owner of Boeser Painting. Laurie works two jobs to support the family. The Boesers are as tight-knit as families come and this moment was very special to them.
“It was an honour to be in the room before the game and read the line-up,” said Laurie, surrounded by family and friends during the 2nd intermission of Saturday’s 4-2 Canucks win. “Brock is transitioning from his UND family to a new family and we’re happy we were there to be a part of that. I think he was fighting back tears, we all were.”
As for the line-up itself, coach Willie Desjardins had Boeser in the starting line-up alongside Daniel and Henrik Sedin, Chris Tanev aaaaaaaand Sbisa?
“That one was a mouthful to say,” laughed Duke. “That was special for us.”
Before puck drop, Boeser’s first NHL experience was ready to be made into a Disney movie. That was before he scored to become the 18th Canucks player to light the lamp in their debut. The goal stood as the game-winner and Boeser was named the game’s first star.
“This was a dream come true,” he said post-game, holding the puck from his first NHL goal. “I couldn’t have drawn it up better myself. Having my family and friends, everyone who has helped me throughout my hockey career, here to support me. I’ll cherish this.”
Post-game Boeser shook hands, hugged or kissed every member of his 50 person entourage, before tweeting a group photo from Air Canucks en route to Winnipeg.
Can’t thank everyone enough for all their support throughout my hockey career. Memory of a lifetime. pic.twitter.com/YLIBeUGYwx
— Brock Boeser (@BBoeser16) March 25, 2017
And to think, his career has only just begun.
Derek Jory – @NoJoryous