Even for an 11-year National Hockey League veteran like Saskatoon’s Luke Schenn, trades seem inevitable and come with a wide array of feelings.
Schenn was a first-round draft pick for the Toronto Maple Leafs in the spring of 2008, and played there for four years. His first trade was an exciting move because he went to the Philadelphia Flyers where he played for four years with his younger brother Brayden. And then there were short stops in Los Angeles, Arizona and Anaheim.
But today, Schenn feels revitalized after being traded from the Anaheim Ducks to the Vancouver Canucks in mid-February. Schenn calls it a positive sign. In 18 games with the Canucks, he registered 81 hits, took nine penalty minutes and had two assists. The encouraging news comes from general manager Jim Benning who hailed him as “a physical, stay-at-home defenceman who moves the puck fast. I thought he played well for us.”
“I’m happy with the finish and Vancouver seems to be a good fit for me,” said Schenn, who spends his off-seasons in Kelowna. “I have to give some credit to both Anaheim and Vancouver. I went to both of their American League affiliates, San Diego and Utica, where I played a lot, handled the puck much more, got a chance to play on power plays and worked on penalty kills.
“When the call came to join the Canucks, I wasn’t sure what they had in mind. But I went from being the perceived extra guy to be the regular with those young kids, and that was incredible. I know some people think of me, being 29, as the old guy getting to play alongside these young guys. There was a time, not many seasons ago, when at 28 or 29, you were considered to be just entering your prime years in the NHL.
“Yes, the players are younger coming into the league. I adjusted to the new speed of the game, gave the team a presence with my physical play and I was really confident in the room and on the ice with these guys. I’m just going to play hard and see what happens.
“With the new faces like Elias Pettersson, Brock Boeser and Bo Horvath, and the really new ones like Quinn Hughes, who was my defence partner, the future in Vancouver is really bright.”
Lowes playing in canada
He becomes an unrestricted free agent on July 1 but wants to stay in Vancouver “because playing in Canadian markets, like I did with Toronto and now with the Canucks, the fans are so passionate and hockey is their main event. I remember those first years with the Leafs; everywhere we went in Canada, the stands were filled by people with Maple Leaf jerseys.”
In 734 NHL games, where he scored 30 goals and had 115 assists, Schenn’s work is a tribute to his Saskatoon upbringing and send-off.
Bob Fawcett worked as a Saskatoon firefighter alongside Schenn’s father, Jeff, and he also scouted for the Kelowna Rockets of the Western Hockey League.
“I started watching Luke when he was a 13-year-old with the Red Wings bantam team. He was a big boy, he carried the puck very well and he was the best at making the first pass out of the zone. I got Lorne Frey, with the Rockets, to come back to Saskatoon to watch him. We agreed on Luke’s potential.
“I know there were some scouts on other WHL teams who weren’t so sure about Luke’s skating ability. I was sure he’d be fine. At the bantam draft, Kelowna was nearly the last team to select. Luke was still available, and we agreed we had to take him. Aside from his ability, the thing about Luke is that he’s always been a phenomenal young man.”
Contracts to be inducted
Schenn played in the Saskatchewan AAA Midget League with the Saskatoon Contacts. They reached the ultimate goal in 2004-05, winning 38 times, losing only three times, getting two ties and suffering one overtime loss. They advanced to the Canadian midget playoffs, beating Don Mills 3-1 in the semi-final and the host Gatineau team 4-1 in the Telus Cup final.
The Contacts will be inducted into the Saskatchewan Hockey Hall of Fame on July 6 in Saskatoon.
“(Contacts coach) Jim McIntyre’s record speaks for itself. There was nothing better than playing for him in the old days at Schroh Arena. I learned so much from him and Jim was a coach who insisted that you always keep pushing yourself harder,” said Schenn.
Kelowna called immediately after the Telus Cup final and general manager Bruce Hamilton invited him to join the team for the Memorial Cup final in London.
“I didn’t get to play in any of the cup games, but during practice I’d be teamed up with Shea Weber. It was great to join the Rockets because they had a history of developing defencemen.”
He played with a number of future NHLers in Kelowna. They included Weber in 2004-05, Saskatchewan product Blake Comeau for two years, Kyle Cumiskey for two years, Alex Edler for one, Tyler Myers and Tyson Barrie for two, and Jamie Benn for one. He was named to the WHL’s West Division all-star team in 2008 and also played for Canada when it won gold at the world junior championship.
Schenn was drafted fifth by Toronto and made the team even though he still had a year of junior eligibility left. He was voted to the NHL’s All-Rookie team alongside Drew Doughty. He had his moments with the Leafs, leading the team in hits, second in blocked shots in 2009-10 and leading all NHL defencemen with 251 hits in 2010-11.
“When I first went to the Maple Leaf camps, I wanted to earn a job and earn their trust. I managed to do that. But I knew I was going into an insane hockey market. The fans were so passionate, there was so much media, so many opinions. When I was traded to Philadelphia, the market was so wild, too. The fans were fanatics, but the chance to play with Brayden was so very special for both of us.”
He and Brayden have talked every day during his brother’s Stanley Cup run with the St. Louis Blues. In the off-season, he and Brayden live eight doors from each other in Kelowna.
“I knew the St. Louis-Winnipeg series was going to be the most hotly-contested.”