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19 Stories: Media memories

by Staff Writer / Vancouver Canucks

Dealing with the media comes with the territory of being a professional athlete.

Whether times are good or bad, Markus Naslund had to answer to the media on behalf of the Vancouver Canucks throughout his time with the team. Naturally, some close bonds were formed with those holding the microphones and recorders.

Whether it was one interview or 1,000, reporters who had the opportunity to interact with Naslund on a personal level know what a classy athlete he was and classy person he continues to be.

Here are four Naslund memories from those who knew him well.

Paul Steigerwald - broadcaster from Pittsburgh

“I thought Markus was one of the nicest gentlemen I ever met. He put up decent numbers the year he was traded but we were so spoiled by having so many other great offensive players that we became impatient, expecting too much too soon.

“Markus was clearly under a lot of pressure but handled it with gracious class. He once was jumped by Randy Cunneyworth in a game at Hartford and it didn't go well. He was a great stickhandler from day one and he showed early flashes of brilliance. The trade did wonders for him in the long run.”

Jim Robson - former Canucks broadcaster

“I feel I know him quite well and like him very much, as a player and even more as a person.

“I retired in 1999, a breakout season for Markus with 36 goals. But those were not very happy times in Canuck land with instability in ownership, management, coaching and the roster. The 98-99 Canucks won only 23 games and missed the playoffs.

“But into the 2000's the team improved dramatically, thanks largely to the play and leadership of new captain Markus Naslund, who had several outstanding years.

“I do remember asking Scotty Bowman about Markus, who was a first round pick of Pittsburgh when Scotty was Director of Player Personnel for the Penguins. Markus had a slow start in his NHL career with only four goals in 71 games in his first season. But Scotty told me one day in the early 90s that Markus Naslund was very skilled and would be a very good player. As usual, Scotty Bowman was right.”

Iain MacIntyre - columnist, Vancouver Sun

“Markus arrived in Vancouver in March of 1996 as an immensely talented but unsettled 22-year-old, still almost a boy and displaying all the awkwardness and self-doubt of one after the false start of his NHL career in Pittsburgh.

“Two years later, he hadn't grown much. Former coach Mike Keenan refused to play him and Naslund actually asked for a trade. But this time, he didn't take the easy way out. He stuck in Vancouver, forced his way into the Keenan's lineup and scored 36 goals. He grew as a player and as person and soon became the best left winger in hockey.

“Markus was marvelously talented. But what I remember most, even more than his skill, was his earnestness and grace as a professional, how committed he was to the Canucks and determined to win a Stanley Cup for Vancouver.

“As a snapshot of Naslund, I'll always remember Sept. 15, 2000. The Canucks had just concluded their training camp in Stockholm with a 2-1 victory against Djurgarden in which a couple of red-haired rookies named Daniel and Henrik Sedin scored for Vancouver.

“The Canucks held a snap press conference, and general manager Brian Burke announced that Naslund would be captain. He handed Naslund a jersey with the C on it. The Swede slipped it on and thrust his arms triumphantly skyward, as if he were lifting the Stanley Cup, and posed proudly for photos as Swedish reporters applauded. Burke, assistant GM Dave Nonis and coach Marc Crawford smiled at Naslund's enthusiasm.

“Crawford said: “He'll be a very good captain for this organization and he'll see this club flourish.”

“It launched a golden decade that saw the Canucks miss the playoffs only twice and become one of the NHL's most prosperous clubs. Eight years after that night in Stockholm, Naslund left as the Canucks' all-time leading scorer.”

Ben Kuzma - writer, The Province

“It's not surprising that the number 19 most associated with Markus Naslund's 884 games with the Vancouver Canucks over more than 11 seasons isn't worn any longer. 

“Although the former captain also had No. 22 pressed on his jersey, the soft-spoken Swedish sensation became the franchise leader with 756 career points -- and the single-season leader in goals (48), assists (56) and points (104) by a left-winger -- as the sharp-shooting No. 19. 

“He wasn't a blood-and-guts leader, but was lauded by his peers as Lester. B Pearson Award recipient in 2002-03 as the NHL's premier player.”

John Shorthouse - Canucks broadcaster

The Canucks sent Leif Rohlin who was playing at the time to pick Markus up. Vancouver had made a few trades that deadline day. They got Jesse Belanger from Florida, Joe Kocur from the New York Rangers and of course Markus from Pittsburgh.

Sports Page sent me to the airport to greet these three people as they were arriving in Vancouver.

I was actually the first person Markus Naslund saw in Vancouver as he came through customs—before he saw Leif Rohlin who had come to pick him up.

The thing I remember is that Markus just came through the gate and Lotta was pushing the cart with all the luggage.

As I would soon find out, this was not a typical character trait of Markus’. Clearly he showed in his career he could carry his own weight.

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