Friedman blue

After signing a one-year extension with the Vancouver Canucks, Mark Friedman can’t say enough good things about the city, his teammates, the coaches, and the management.

Friedman played 23 games for the Canucks after being traded to Vancouver from the Pittsburgh Penguins on October 17th, 2023. The 28-year-old right-shot defenceman provided depth to the defence corps and was always one of the hardest workers both on and off the ice.

Part of his high-running motor in practice situations comes from his desire to be a supporter of a winning culture on a team. The idea of building something special and successful is an exciting process for Friedman.

“I haven't been in Vancouver for long, but the years prior haven't been super successful, and now that there's traction here in terms of positive seasons and some winning ways, it makes everyone feel good about playing hockey in Vancouver. And I think guys just come to the rink every day wanting to get better and strive for greatness,” Friedman said.

“It goes a long way when everyone has the same mindset and has the same goal – for us, that's just winning. You don't have guys worried about their points and whatnot. Guys are all just focused on the same thing and going to change the culture. It starts from up top and ultimately leads its way down to us players, who absolutely love it.”

Friedman learned a lot about what a good culture can do for an organization from his time with the Penguins. And it is helpful having some familiar faces around within the Canucks’ organization to help build a winning culture.

“It starts with the President and the GM,” said Friedman. “Patrik and I have grown to have a good relationship here and he is available to speak at any time. We are so lucky to have him as our General Manager. He’s there whenever you need him; whether it's about your game or your wife, he is there to talk whenever about whatever.”

As Friedman looks back on his 2023-24 season, he feels comfortable in his role and believes that he gained the trust of the coaching staff throughout the season. Friedman went 73 days between games with the Canucks but knew that his game needed to be ready for when he gets the call to contribute.

“I only played however many games I played, but I thought when I played, I did my job," said Friedman. "I'm 28 years old now, so I know what the coaching staff expects of me, and whether it's sitting on the sidelines watching for a month or playing 10 games in a row, they know what they're going to get out of me, and that's someone who competes every shift, plays to my strengths, continue making the simple plays, and being reliable when called upon. I think I demonstrated that, and I am very happy to get another year in Vancouver.”

In the offseason, Friedman trains with a talented group of pros that includes Mitch Marner and the Raddysh brothers, Taylor and Darren. The group skates with well-regarded hockey coach Dan Noble and the pace in those skates helps prepare players for their demanding training camps in the fall.

When he is not on the ice, Friedman has found an escape on the tennis court.

“Some might say I’m better at tennis than hockey,” said Friedman with a laugh. “I’m kidding, but I do love tennis. I’m playing four or five times a week right now. I’ve got an instructor and I just love the game. It’s something that I think is great to do. Hockey is a team sport and I feel like tennis helps you because you are all alone on the court. It helps with my mindset and building my mental toughness.”

Friedman also believes that tennis is a great sport for improving conditioning in the offseason. When asked about the best part of his game, he said it’s certainly not his backhand. So, if you ever find yourself in a match against Mark Friedman, go heavy on that side.

Following a year where the Canucks pushed the Edmonton Oilers to seven games in the second round of the playoffs, Friedman looks at the opportunity to play in Canada as a blessing. Being a Toronto-born kid made him fall in love with passionate fan bases and that’s exactly what he likes about being a Canuck and playing in front of the Vancouver fans.

“Playing hockey in Canada, there’s nothing like it,” said Friedman. “The fans here in Vancouver appreciate hockey, they love the game, and they truly understand it. I could see that the fans in this city were proud to be Canucks fans this past season and that felt great as a player.”

Friedman is ready for whatever role comes his way next season but one thing he is dedicated to doing is showing up every day with the willingness to work his ass off and give 100% in every drill, workout, or game.

The added depth helps the Canucks for next season as Patrik Allvin and his management team continue to work through improving the roster for the 2024-25 season.