The 25-year-old had never received as much media attention as he did post-game and he answered questions in style, sporting a traditional hand-woven, hand painted wicker hat he had been presented with by coach John Tortorella moments earlier.
This mysterious hat, a gift to the Canucks from the people of Haida Gwaii, was chosen by the players to be a meaningful and symbolic way for teammates to recognize the team’s player of the game.
This was all new to Welsh, who wasn’t even with the Canucks during their visits to the communities of Prince Rupert and Massett, B.C. last September, but he smiled for the cameras, said cheese for the photos and was on the ball with his quotes.
Although Welsh is with the Utica Comets at the moment, he remains part of an exclusive club of Canucks players who have won the coveted Haida Hat.
Since Welsh’s win, Dale Weise, Zac Dalpe, Ryan Kesler, Chris Higgins, Mike Santorelli, Eddie Lack, Brad Richardson, Yannick Weber, Chris Tanev and Jannik Hansen have donned the beautiful prize.
Woven by Maxine Edgar and painted by Jaalen Edenshaw, the Haida Hat is made of yellow cedar and features a traditional black and red killer whale, an ‘S_gan’ in Haida culture.
“I did the killer because it’s the crest of the Canucks, but in Haida culture, the killer whale is one of the most powerful supernatural beings of the ocean,” explained Edenshaw, a Massett product and a member of the Ts’aahl – Eagle Clan of the Haida Nation.
“The hat was meant as a thank you gift, I never expected them to wear it,” gushed Edenshaw, who was there with his kids during Vancouver’s visit in September and never expected the visit to be so memorable. “I figured they’d come in, sign a couple of autographs and wave to the kids sort of thing, but they made it a real community event and they have a lot of fans up here anyway, but they galvanized that and probably made some more.”
The legacy of Vancouver’s northern visit lives on in the Haida Hat, which is presented to the Canucks player of the game as decided by the current Haida Hat holder, but everyone gets a say, but not really, but kind of. And only after wins.
“It is complicated,” laughed Dale Weise. “First thing is we’ve got to shut the tunes down after the game and we don’t like shutting the tunes down, so it has to be a big thing. This is. The guy who won it the game before stands up and makes the presentation to who he thinks deserves it; you get a couple of chirps for who guys think should win, and the majority of the time it goes to the unsung guy and everybody is happy about it.”
“Everyone tells you to give a speech after you put it on and you don’t give a speech,” added Zac Dalpe. “I’m nervous to speak in front of these guys. It was an honour to receive it, it was special to know my effort was recognized by the guys.”
And by momma Dalpe?
“My life has changed drastically since winning the Haida Hat,” laughed Dalpe. “Twitter followers have gone up…actually, on a real note, somebody took a picture of me with it on and when I went home for Christmas, my mom had the picture blown up and had it framed. It was funny. It’s a good shot for after I retire, for sure.”
There are many more Haida Hats to be won before Dalpe hangs up his skates.
There are many more Haida Hats to be won this year and Eddie Lack wants to see a bit more sharing of the award in the near future.
“When I gave it away I wanted to acknowledge our D-core a little bit because they’re so good to us goalies, plus Garrison kind of scared me a bit with his beard too, so I gave it to him,” said Lack.
“There’s no divide in the room, but I know if the D-core gets it, they’d rather keep it within themselves than give it to the forwards, same goes with the forwards to the d-men, and god forbid the goalies should get it, you know.”
As long as it’s being awarded, it doesn’t matter who gets the Haida Hat because the Canucks were all winners.