I hit up Vancouver Canucks President of Hockey Operations Jim Rutherford with a little poll last week. These were his answers. Keep in mind, when I was growing up, he went by Jimmy Rutherford, our family’s favourite goalie by default. And we loved his mask.
As an NHL goalie he never made it past the second round of the playoffs and played in very few postseason NHL games. He did win the Memorial Cup with the Montreal Junior Canadiens in 1969.
He’s won Stanley Cups managing the Carolina Hurricanes in 2006 and again overseeing the Pittsburgh Penguins in 2016 and 2017. He joined the Vancouver Canucks in December 2021.
Who was your favourite goalie growing up and your favourite team?
My favourite goalie was Glenn Hall. He was a phenomenal goalie and my favourite team was the Toronto Maple Leafs for obvious reasons. I grew up outside of Toronto. (Beeton, Ontario, 55 km north)
Did you ever get a player’s autograph?
Yes, I was ten years old and Frank Mahovlich (Maple Leafs 4th leading scorer, age 21 at the time) came to our hockey banquet and spoke at our hockey banquet. I got his autograph and got a picture taken with him. And then when I was 21-years-old, my first year in the NHL, he was my teammate (in Detroit).
How and why did you become a goalie?
I guess nobody else was crazy enough to do it. I lived in a small town, we only had about 10 players on the team, and I was small. My dad, he was the manager of the senior team, and they used to always have the players down to the house after games, and the goalie for that team gave me his goalie stick when I was five. From that point on, I played goal.
He gave you the stick when you were five?
Yep. His name was Bob Kearns. He was even mentioned in my Hockey Hall of Fame acceptance speech. (2019 as a builder)
Were you weird as a goalie and how many superstitions, habits or routines did you have?
Yeah, probably. That’s when I started game days when I didn’t talk to anybody after I had my game meal. It was a playoff game (1978) when everyone was all excited and everyone was talking before the game, including me, goofing around and we got beat 8-0, so I just decided I’m not going to do that anymore and I got away from it. I got real quiet on the day of the game.
Probably a lot of superstitions. Drive to the game the same route if you won the prior game. Drive to the game the same way, put your equipment on the same way every game, just little goofy things like that.
Who was your favourite coach ever, any level?
Red Kelly. Pittsburgh Penguins. First of all, he was just a really nice man. He really knew the game and he cared about the players. I remember the one year I was there, we were leading up to the Christmas break and I was in shaving and he came in and asked me “Do I have any plans for Christmas?” I said “Oh yeah, my family’s coming down or da, da, da, da, dah.” And he said “Oh that’s good, well, I hope you have a nice Christmas.”
So right after Christmas, I found out why he asked me that question because I got sent down to the minors for a week, or two weeks I guess it was. So, he had the courtesy to ask me what I was doing. If I didn’t have plans he probably would have sent me to the minors at that (earlier) point, but he was a personable guy and he cared about people.
And a legend …
Very much so. Yep.
While Mahovlich and Kelly were Hall of Famers on the ice, Rutherford developed into one off the ice.
His plans and timetable for the Vancouver Canucks, coming up in part two.