That’s how Brock Boeser describes his emotional journey over the last year.
The Vancouver Canucks forward lost his father Duke to cancer on May 27, 2022 which subsequently impacted his on-ice performance. He was almost a healthy scratch against the Arizona Coyotes on Hockey Fights Cancer night on Dec. 3, 2022. The situation snowballed to the point where Boeser and his agent Ben Hankinson were eventually given permission by the organization to explore trade options.
Boeser even admitted in the team’s season-ending media availability session that at points he ‘resented’ the game given the adversity he had gone through.
This off-season, however, Boeser’s love for the game was rekindled. He made some tweaks to his off-season workout program and re-dedicated himself to the game.
The results have been shocking.
Not only has Boeser regained his previous form, he’s surpassed it.
He now leads the NHL in goals with 17 after his two tallies in the Canucks 3-1 win against the Anaheim Ducks Tuesday night at Rogers Arena. With the pair of goals, Boeser is now two ahead of Tampa Bay’s Nikita Kucherov and Florida’s Sam Reinhart for tops in the NHL.
“It just shows how crazy this league is. There are times when you get low blows and there are times when you have highs. It’s a rollercoaster but you have to stay even keel and focus on the process,” Boeser replied when asked about what has transpired over the last year.
Canucks head coach Rick Tocchet sees a difference in Boeser’s game this year – particularly in his own end.
“He’s played better defensively than last year – he’s conscientious. He’s also actually one of our better practice players and I think his practice habits have translated into his game now. Whatever the drill is, it seems like the spots he’s going to score goals from…they’re there. The repetitive drills we do in practice…which he is doing properly…somehow in the game he’s getting those chances. He’s also going to the net more this year. Now it’s about keeping that consistency level. He’s raised that bar now we have to keep it there,” Tocchet noted.
Canucks captain Quinn Hughes says Boeser’s hard work has paid off not only in terms of production but in his overall value to the team.
“I see a lot in his game. It seems like he’s really grown over the last couple of years. He’s a man – emotionally and physically. He had a great summer of training and put everything he had into it. He came here and he’s had a great start to the year. For him now it’s just staying consistent which I know he will do. He’s been great for us. It’s not just the goals - he’s been on that matchup line with Millsy (J.T. Miller) and playing on top of guys and it’s just been massive for our group,” says Hughes.
With 17 goals, Boeser only needs one goal to match last year’s total of 18. Barring injury, he should eclipse his career-high of 29 goals set in his rookie season of 2017-18.
*Elias Pettersson’s goal against Anaheim was just his second in ten games. There has been plenty of speculation on whether or not Pettersson is playing hurt but his play in the third period against the Ducks was encouraging as he was his old dominant self. “I’m happy with the fact that he’s recognized that he has to play better in certain situations. He knows it. I also think sometimes he’s reading off other people too much. We talked about it the other day – you just go. You do your thing. It’s our job to get other people to react off of you. He’s just got to be more decisive and play a little quicker through the neutral zone,” answered Tocchet when asked if he thought Pettersson was staying true to the process.
*Forward Andrei Kuzmenko returned to the lineup after being a healthy scratch for two games. After the game, Tocchet categorized Kuzmenko’s performance as ‘OK’.
*Canucks forward Ilya Mikheyev left the game in the third period after taking a shot in the left leg and did not return. Tocchet said afterwards that he should be ‘OK’ after X-Rays came back negative.
*Prior the game, the Canucks announced that they traded forward Anthony Beauvillier to the Chicago Blackhawks for a fifth-round draft pick. The move clears a $4.15 contract off the books and gives the organization some wiggle room in an effort to acquire a defenseman.
*Boeser was at the University of North Dakota the same time as Winnipeg Blue Bombers running back Brady Oliveira. While Boeser isn’t exactly close to the Oliveira these days, he speaks highly of the Bomber running back’s character having known him during his time at UND from 2015 to 2017.
Veteran B.C. sports personality Bob “the Moj” Marjanovich writes twice weekly for Black Press Media.