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Sports This Week: Former Canuck D-man gets BC Hall of Fame nod

Kearns was recently among the 2023 inductees for the British Columbia Sports Hall of Fame.
Dennis Kearns' 321 career points was the all-time mark for Canucks defencemen for more than 30-years


Dennis Kearns isn’t exactly a recognizable name in terms of professional hockey.

But Kearns put together a career that encompassed 677 regular season games – a significant number in the National Hockey League – over a career spanning 10 seasons.

That is a very nice career by any standard, and when you add in all of those games were played with a single club, it just puts a fine exclamation point on his career.

So its not surprising Kearns was recently among the 2023 inductees for the British Columbia Sports Hall of Fame.

“I was very pleasantly surprised . . . It was a real honour,” Kearns told Yorkton This Week.

That the selection came so long after the completion of Kearns’ career had to be part of the surprise. He began his time with the Canucks playing 73 games in the 1971-72 season – only the teams second, and wrapped up his career with 46 games in 1980-81.

Interestingly Orland Kurtenbach from Cudworth was Captain of the Canucks when Kearns joined the team.

Initially, Kearns’ rights were held by the Chicago Black Hawks, Kearns served a four-year apprentice in the minor leagues, principally with the Portland Buckaroos of the Western Hockey League. Then in the summer of 1971, Chicago exposed Kearns in the Intra-League Draft, and he was claimed by Vancouver.

Kearns said regardless of the timing the selection – he was inducted into the BC Hockey Hall of Fame in 2007 – the recent announcement “was an honour.”

“Maybe it’s just the icing on the cake.”

Kearns said playing with the Canucks through their early years of existence had its challenges.

“We were in very, very, very tough,” he said, adding when you looked at the line-up of teams such as Montreal, Boston, Toronto or Philadelphia it was apparent the Canucks simply weren’t as talented.

That isn’t to say Kearns didn’t have a notable career. His 55 assists in 1977 remained the franchise record for defencemen until surpassed by Quinn Hughes in the 2021–22 season with 60 assists.

His 321 career points was the all-time mark for Canucks defencemen for more than 30-years until surpassed by Mastitis Öhlund at the end of the 2009 season.

Kearns 290 career assists stood as the franchise record for defenceman until being overtaken by Alexander Edler in 2020.

In the early years the Canucks were also somewhat alone on the west coast with only Los Angeles and now long-gone Oakland in their time zone.

“There were long, long roads trips and not a lot of wins,” he said.

The bright spot though – at least in the early years – was a fan base just happy to have NHL hockey in their city.

“The fans were very, very passionate,” said Kearns, adding that “understandably when you’re not winning a lot it did drop off.”

Kearns also noted that often fans were coming out to see the great players on other teams – Bobby Orr, Guy Lafleur, Marcel Dionne – as much as the home side.

“Stars put people in the seats,” he said.

It’s the same today with players like the Canuck’s Elias Pettersson drawing attention from fans – which is what Kearns is today as a resident of Vancouver.

Kearns said there are so many great players who make “spectacular plays” but really excel at doing the little things well. “They move the puck. They get lots of points by making really simple plays.”

Of course like as a Canuck fan, Kearns hopes one day for a Stanley Cup for Vancouver.

“The one year in our division we ended up in first place,” he said, adding the joke was that they had a bye in the first round of the playoffs and a “bye-bye” in the second having to face Montreal.


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