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Man on a mission

by Derek Jory / Vancouver Canucks

David Booth wears his heart on his sleeve.

When the 26-year-old found out he had been traded from the Florida Panthers to the Vancouver Canucks this past Saturday, he cried.

No Oscar-acceptance-speech tears were shed, but it took Booth a moment to collect himself and clear his mind.

Although Booth enjoyed his five seasons with the Panthers, a team marred in a 10-year playoff drought, it wasn’t joining the Canucks that brought him to tears.

“It was an emotional time for me,” said Booth, caged in by more than 20 reporters Monday following his first practice with the Canucks. “I live with my brother down in Florida and it’s hard to leave him, he’s one year younger than me and I grew up my whole life with him. It was tough to say goodbye and it’s going to be tough for a while.”

Booth is very close with his family. He has another brother he speaks highly of, his father was in Florida visiting when the trade went down and his younger sister, Rachael, a 16-year-old hockey player with scholarship offers flying in, is the reason he chose to wear No. 7 with the Canucks.

As far as character goes, Booth is a great addition to the locker room.

Now the six-foot, 212-pound forward from Michigan has to prove he’ll be a great addition on the ice.

Booth had just one assist in six games with Florida to start the season, a far cry from the six points (3-3-6) he had after six games a season ago. His lack of early production is what made him expendable, according to reports out of Florida. Booth met with Canucks coach Alain Vigneault Monday morning to address this and other things and both sides are now clear on expectations.

For Booth it’s not about simply putting up points, he wants to return to the form that had him top 30 goals and 60 points three seasons ago.

“I feel like I can get back there and can get even higher,” said Booth, who skated alongside Ryan Kesler and Chris Higgins in practice. “I’m playing with some good players now and that’s something that I think comes with time.

“I know I have to be better,” he continued, “and I just hold myself to my highest expectations and that’s higher than what anyone else expects.”

Booth is penciled in on Vancouver’s second line with Kesler and Higgins and if any duo is going to help him achieve success, it’s those two. The “American Express” line, as some are calling it, (not me, I prefer "Yankee Doodles") will feature speed, grit, determination, heart and most importantly familiarity. Booth and Higgins played together in Florida, while Booth and Kesler began skating together at 12-years-old; the mischievous smile on Booth’s face made it clear his time with Kes produced some cherished hockey memories.

Coach Vigneault is hoping that line combination will produce some memories for the Canucks, and nightmares for the opposition.

“When the twins are going and when Ryan and whoever he is with are going, it makes it very challenging for the opposition,” said Vigneault. “What do they do, do they go strength against strength and who do they do that against or do they put their best D pair against the twins or against Kes?

“If you’ve got two lines that can produce offensively and if you’ve got two other lines that can wear down the opposition and spend time in their end, it makes it a lot more challenging for the opposition and that’s what we’re hoping to get.”

The Canucks don’t know what they’ve got yet and Booth, asked about going from a non-traditional market to a hockey hotbed, doesn’t quite know what to think yet either.

He’s happy though, and eager for the next chapter of his life and career to unfold.

“It’s real exciting to be here. Hockey is number one here in Canada and that’s cool. Growing up in Detroit watching those Stanley Cup teams, that’s something that got me excited to play hockey and now to play here. I got to watch Hockey Night in Canada growing up as a kid and this is just so cool to be a part of.”

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