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Nonis says farewell

by Jeff Paterson / Vancouver Canucks
The list was long and Dave Nonis wanted to make sure he got to them all. In what was a pretty good indication of the man himself, the former general manager of the Vancouver Canucks started his farewell address by thanking the many people who had helped him over the years. Although Nonis was back in the spotlight Wednesday morning, speaking publicly for the first time since his Monday evening dismissal, he wanted to make sure the moment wasn’t all about him.

And so he read off a list that included everyone from NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman to his mentor Brian Burke and his many friends in the hockey community. But the bulk of his thank yous were saved for the people he had worked with in his many years in the Canuck organization. Nonis thanked his executive group and the coaching staff, the players and their wives and he was thorough enough to cover off many Canuck employees who usually toil in anonymity, but ones who’d worked hard for him since he was promoted to the corner office four years ago. For Nonis, being the general manager of the Vancouver Canucks was about trying to build a team on the ice with the help of a much larger team off of it.

“I think everybody here is very committed to doing the right thing. I think I’ve worked pretty hard to do the right things for this organization,” he said in his address to a crowded room of media. “I think I’ve put the team first ahead of my own backside and I would say that I think I had 100 per cent commitment from everyone who worked for me.”

Jeff Paterson is a Team 1040 broadcaster and a regular contributor to the Georgia Straight.

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In his trademark blue suit, the 41-year-old Nonis sat at the podium and showed a little emotion at times talking about leading the hockey club he had grown up watching as a youngster in Burnaby. He experienced the highs of acquiring Roberto Luongo and watching the netminder backstop the Canucks to franchise records for wins (49) and points (105) en route to the Northwest Division title and a spot in the second round of the playoffs a year ago.

But Nonis also suffered through the tough times of dealing with injuries to key players and watching his team struggle to score goals this season. And ultimately, with the Canucks falling out of the playoffs late in the season – and for the second time in three years -- Nonis found himself out of a job.

“The past 24 hours haven’t been very much fun. It’s the first time in 20 years that I’ve been unemployed for a day. But I hope to rectify that very quickly,” he said of his intentions to get back into a hockey job before long. “I’m going to take my family to Hawaii for a week or so. Then I’ll sit back and wait for a bit. I don’t plan on not working.”

Nonis is well-respected in hockey circles and shouldn’t have trouble finding work, although there are never guarantees that he’ll slide into a similar position to the one he had here. At least not right away. He may be forced to take a step back and work his way up through another organization. But with his experience with the Canucks and working in the NHL’s head office, Nonis has plenty to offer his next employer.

And while it ended sooner than he would have liked, Nonis is content with the job he did in his time as the Canucks general manager. And two days after being ousted, he still found old habits hard to break.

“We are pretty well positioned. I keep saying ‘we’ -- this team -- is pretty well positioned in my opinion to take a serious step forward and I believe that if they hire the right person there’s no reason to think that that can’t happen,” Nonis said. “And I hope that it does because I’ll be able to look back and say those are the pieces I put there.”

Dave Nonis may no longer be in charge of the Vancouver Canucks, but his legacy will live on in the form of the Luongo trade along with the long-term signings of Willie Mitchell, Ryan Kesler, Alex Burrows and Kevin Bieksa and the drafting of Alex Edler, Mason Raymond, Luc Bourdon and Cory Schneider.

“At the end of the day, I’m pretty comfortable with where I’ve left this hockey team,” he said.

With that, the Dave Nonis era in Vancouver is over. And while he started his remarks with many thanks to the people who’d helped him in his journey. One day in the not too distant future, there may be many who may be thanking Dave Nonis if the team he leaves behind lives up to the expectations he had for it.
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