Sauve the first ever Salmon King skater to play for the Canucks
Take note hockey fans, Yann Sauve’s debut as a Vancouver Canuck against the Minnesota Wild Tuesday (Feb. 15) was a historic one for the Victoria Salmon Kings.
Sauve is the first Salmon King to climb the organizational ladder from Victoria’s ECHL team to the AHL’s Manitoba Moose and then go on to play for the NHL’s Canucks.
Diehard trivia buffs might point to the three minutes former Salmon Kings’ goalie Rob McVicar played for Vancouver in 2005-06 as an emergency fill-in. But Sauve is a bona fide NHL prospect, a second round draft pick in 2008.
At 6-foot-3, Sauve is big but not flashy. With Victoria he had one assist and was a minus-2.
Though he wasn’t here long, Sauve’s time in Victoria was long enough. He played eight regular season games from Nov. 26 to Dec. 15.
His Island assignment may have had a lot to do with Sauve’s recovery from a car accident in the off season as well as the busload of NHL defencemen signed by Canucks’ general manager Mike Gillis this year.
Even as Sauve enjoys his first cup of NHL coffee, Moose defenders Ryan Parent (106 NHL games) and Nolan Baumgartner (143 NHL games) remain on the farm due to politics around the NHL salary cap and other issues.
But for Salmon Kings’ fans, Sauve’s NHL debut counts for a lot. “Fish heads,” if you will, aren’t often afforded the chance to chat about former Kings at the NHL level.
There have been NHLers come the other way, sliding back to the ECHL level. This season, Garth Murray (116 games in the NHL) used the Kings to get back on the ice.
Last year, Shaun Heshka, who played three games with Victoria in 2006-07, skated with the Phoenix Coyotes for eight games.
Perhaps the most unique story belongs to Patrick Coulombe. Undrafted from the QMJHL, where he played with Sidney Crosby, Coulombe started the 2006-07 with Vancouver, then skated backwards all the way to Victoria, where he stayed for three years.
But, thanks to Alex Burrows, the promise of an ECHLer (preferably a Salmon King) making the Canucks is still alive. It’s still a tangible part of every Salmon Kings ticket purchase.
When Victoria’s team first arrived in 2004, the squad and league boasted strong ties to the NHL.
In net, one-time New York Rangers standout Dan Blackburn was attempting to return to NHL form. Despite suffering a career-ending arm injury, he made headlines by playing with two blockers.
Another former Ranger, Dale Purinton, also skated for the Salmon Kings, though his time came to an end after two multi-game suspensions.
In 2006, Victoria hockey fans, who are overwhelmingly Canucks supporters, thought they won the lottery. The Canucks adopted the Salmon Kings into the family. Or so we were told.
Five years later, little has come of the affiliation with Vancouver, other than early season assignments of local prospects like Taylor Ellington and Dan Gendur, cut from the Moose training camp.
Instead, Victoria has bunked with the forgotten, middle sibling of the Canuck family. Manitoba may be highly thought of, but that team is rarely mentioned in these parts.
Many Kings are recalled to the Moose, and as great as it is for the player’s career, there simply out of sight, out of mind to Victoria fans.
Here’s hoping Sauve is the first to change that mindset.