Henrik Sedin salutes the choice of centre who ‘has that extra dimension’The road to being captain of an NHL team is rarely a smooth, straight-line transition.It demands skill and will, productivity and patience. It requires the ability to lead with on-ice performance and in-room respect. It’s the ultimate honour for those who have overcome obstacles, learned from their peers and maintained a humble nature driven by an incredible work ethic.It’s why the 24-year-old Bo Horvat became the Vancouver Canucks’ 14th captain during a pre-game ceremony Wednesday at Rogers Arena. He checks all the boxes. He always has.When former captain Henrik Sedin handed the centre a new jersey stitched with the ‘C’ before the Canucks played the Los Angeles Kings, it was more than passing the leadership torch. It was the culmination of a long and twisting road for Horvat, who has always exceeded expectations and embraced every challenge.“We saw a lot of young guys come up,” said Henrik. “Most are good players and they want to score and some that have that extra dimension to them where they see more of a big picture. They think differently than those guys and he (Horvat) was one of them for sure.”And what advice would the former captain pass along to the new one?“First of all, be yourself,” stressed Henrik. “He got picked because he is who he is. That’s what they told me when I became the captain and it’s been good that they’ve seen him for a few years. If someone comes in a you pick him right away, you don’t really know what kind of guy he is.“And it’s the guts to be honest with the fans and media, There are going to be times where they lose three in a row but play well enough to win and you have to say that. And when you win three in a row and play poorly, you’ve got to be able to say that, too.”
Bo Horvat during his first shift as captain against the LA Kings in a regular season NHL hockey game at Rogers Arena, Vancouver, October 09 2019.
Gerry Kahrmann /
A year ago, Horvat believed he was ready for the captaincy because of the four-year master class tutelage from Henrik and Daniel Sedin. However, he understood what was at play in the big picture. The Canucks wanted the centre to improve in every area and not be burdened by additional demands.That’s a tough sell to a guy who’s wired wanting to do it all and wear the ‘C.’However, Horvat responded by taking his game to another level last season. He compiled a career-high 61 points (27-34), played all 82 games, and didn’t pout when the lineup carousel kept spinning. He centred a dozen different wingers and endured three dozen line combinations.It didn’t go unnoticed.The manner in which Horvat became a go-to guy in a Sedin-less locker room, didn’t buckle under persistent pestering by the press, and let his play do the talking sold the Canucks on making the captaincy a launching point for the 50th-anniversary celebration.“It’s how I was raised,” said Horvat when asked about his dutiful demeanour. “My parents kept me humble and focused on my goals. I’m not the most vocal guy, but I’ll definitely say some things in the room and with my play on the ice to lead by example and be as positive as I can.”Sounds a lot like a former captain.Henrik and Daniel were human piñatas for early career criticism. Their critics swung away because the twins were too slight, too slow and too Swedish. However, their eventual impact on the ice would be matched by the respect they commanded in the room and the charitable community. They always took the heat after a loss and would disappear and allow teammates to soak up post-game plaudits when the Canucks won.“It’s a Canadian market and the media is hard on guys and the team,” said Horvat. “For you to be that voice is definitely tough, and they (Sedins) stuck with it. They were just complete pros on and off the ice. I learned a lot.”That wasn’t all Horvat learned about leadership.He endured a 27-game goal drought in 2015-16. The second-year centre couldn’t buy a goal and there were sleepless nights. Then Henrik stepped up and told Horvat that he had endured a longer scoring funk. It worked. Horvat bumped the slump on Jan. 4.“It speaks to him,” said Horvat. “No matter how long you’ve played in the league, everybody needs a pat on the back. You’re always looking to comfort somebody, or get out of your comfort zone and talk to people about their struggles, too.“That just goes to show what great leaders can be, or do, and Hank did that.”
Bo Horvat is congratulated by teammate Henrik Sedin after scoring during their NHL game against the New York Rangers at Rogers Arena February 28, 2018 in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada.
Jeff Vinnick /
NHLI via Getty Images
To his credit, Horvat never hit the career ditch when his skating was questioned or future value widely debated as the return in a 2013 draft-day shocker. The Canucks sent franchise poster-boy goalie Cory Schneider to New Jersey in exchange for the ninth overall selection, which turned into Horvat and relentless scrutiny.“There was added pressure even before he stepped on the ice,” Horvat’s father, Tim, recalled before the captaincy ceremony. “He just looked at me and said, ‘It’s OK, dad. I know what I’m capable of.’”The journey started at age four when Horvat took to the ice like a duck to water. By age six, the London, Ont., native was power skating and excelling at the tyke level. By the time he advanced to peewee, he was already displaying leadership qualities while being raised in the tiny southwestern Ontario farming community of Rodney (population 1,000).“He was always the captain of our teams,” recalled coach Jeff Vanvliet, who guided Horvat through peewee, bantam and minor midget. “He was the guy they looked up to because they knew in a tight game, he would score or hold the lead.“You could see his head was on right, and he was always the best player who went about his business and did what he needed to do personally and for the team. He did his skill work outside our practices to make sure he was ready for the next level — it was always about the next level.“That’s what you see in elite players. They don’t get too far ahead of themselves and Bo was never cocky in any way. He was the hardest-working player in practices and games and just a pleasure to coach.”Horvat’s true ascension as a player and person came in the 2011 Ontario Hockey League priority selection draft.He was taken ninth overall by the London Knights while Ian Jenkins, who often crossed competitive paths with Horvat, was picked 29th by the same club. The aspiring goaltender died a month after the draft when he fell from the back of a pickup truck and struck his head on the pavement. He wore No. 35. Horvat flipped the number and donned his familiar No. 53 in a lasting tribute.NEXT GAMESaturdayVancouver Canucks vs. Philadelphia Flyers7 p.m., Rogers Arena, TV: CBC; Radio: Sportsnet 650 AM“That just shows what leadership is,” recalled Knights general manager Mark Hunter. “He cares for other people and knows to surround people who need help and to help them get through bad times and good times by keeping humble.“He gets it. He has that vision to keep his feet steady on the ground, and to do that at a young age is impressive.”What Horvat did for the Knights in three successful seasons was to embrace the example set by Dale Hunter, the no-nonsense Knights coach. Hunter compiled 1,020 career NHL points (323-697) in 1,407 games as a rugged and effective centre with Quebec, Washington and Colorado.“He knew exactly what it took to play there (NHL) and stay there and guiding me through the process,” said Horvat. “The Hunters were a huge part of the player I am today. They put me in key situations and that was my role there.“They thrived on playing good defensively and that’s what I am today.”Horvat hit the 30-goal plateau twice in the OHL and had three Memorial Cup appearances. In the 2012-13 postseason, he scored twice in the deciding game of the league final, including the game winner with less than a second remaining.It’s why Mark Hunter compared Horvat to Bryan Trottier. The six-time Stanley Cup champion wasn’t the flashiest forward but steadily improved to become a 50-goal scorer.“Trottier was vey unassuming,” said Hunter. “When you watched him play, it was, ‘Yeah, he’s good.’ And then you watched him some more and you go, ‘Wow. He’s really good.’ And when you watch Bo closer, and all the details in his game, it’s the same. He played a lot of hard minutes for us and put up the points with no fanfare.”email@example.com/benkuzmaCLICK HERE to report a typo. Is there more to this story? We’d like to hear from you about this or any other stories you think we should know about. Email firstname.lastname@example.org