Flanked by his wife and kids, Mattias Ohlund was inducted into the Vancouver Canucks’ Ring of Honor on Friday night as the Lightning visited Vancouver.
Ohlund spent more than a decade with the Canucks as one of their key defenseman who could also throw his body around. He’s their all-time leading goal scorer and point leader among defenseman. His career ended with the Lightning so it was no surprise that the Canucks honored him when the two teams met. Steven Stamkos and Victor Hedman remain the only two Lightning players to have played with Ohlund; assistant coach Rick Bowness also had the same role in Vancouver during Ohlund’s tenure.
The Canucks’ Ring of Honor is just an uber fancy way for the team to recognize its former players with permanent displays inside Rogers Arena. Center Orland Kurtenbach was the first to be inducted in October 2010. They’ve honored five more since: Kirk McLean, Thomas Gradin, Harold Snepsts, the late Pat Quinn and now, Ohlund.
Ohlund spent 11 seasons with the Canucks before committing to seven years with the Lightning on July 1, 2009 as a free agent and it was no secret why the Bolts signed him — and what his role would be: to mentor fellow Swedish defenseman Victor Hedman, who the Lightning drafted with the No. 2 overall pick just days prior to Ohlund’s signing. Ohlund went into his first season with an A on his sweater.
But various injuries and procedures to his knee hampered his time with the Lightning — and ultimately his career. Ohlund played his first game as a Bolt on Oct. 3, 2009, and was almost exactly two years later, on Oct. 4, 2011, the Lightning placed him on injured reserve and he never played after that. Ohlund had been on long-term injured reserve all this time, until his contract expired on July 2, 2016. All told, Ohlund scored 18 points in 139 games with the Lightning, all assists.
Despite what it might look on the paper, make no mistake that Ohlund had an impact on the Lightning. Steven Stamkos even came out of his rehab hiding to give a shoutout.
Happy to see Mattias "Papa Bear" Ohlund getting his special night in Vancouver this evening. One of the best teammates I have ever had!— Steven Stamkos (@RealStamkos91) December 17, 2016
But Hedman was the protege, and even though Ohlund’s time was short, that time mattered to a young guy breaking into a league so far from his home. In 2010, just barely into his second season in the NHL, Hedman said this of Ohlund to NHLPA.com:
“I owe Mattias Ohlund a lot of thanks for what he has done for me. He's been a good friend and really helped in a lot of ways.”
And later, 2014, to NHL.com:
“He was one of those guys you looked up to when you first started playing. It was good to have him around and see him play. He took us out to dinner right away. We just had a good time and became friends right away. He really took good care of me."
So of course it was Hedman who took part in the ceremonial face-off. Hedman incidentally was the one to take the first penalty of the game and he also scored the first goal.
It’s been an Ohlund Extravaganza in Vancouver, as the Canucks have been honoring Ohlund in other ways too, even creating his own beer.
His own puck.
Special puck for a special night. pic.twitter.com/ukK7DU0Jb9— Vancouver Canucks (@Canucks) December 16, 2016
Even a billboard.
Watch the entire ceremony below.