Over his 15-year career with seven different NHL organizations, Luke Schenn has had a lot of teammates.
Perhaps it was inevitable that he’d eventually set the league’s all-time record for hits by a defenseman against one of his old partners.
Schenn’s sixth and final hit of Saturday’s 3-2 overtime win over the Arizona Coyotes was the 2,947th of his career and moved him ahead of Brooks Orpik into the top spot on the NHL’s list. With the score knotted at 2-2 and 5:24 left in regulation time, Schenn was helping to kill off an interference penalty to Bo Horvat when he pasted Jakob Chychrun against the end boards.
“He was my D partner when he first came into the league as an 18-year-old, and we spent a good portion of the year together,” recalled Schenn, who spent two seasons with the Coyotes starting in 2016. “Before overtime, I thanked him for that — skating into my corner there on the power play. We had a good chuckle about it.”
A hit record may not be an obvious reason for celebration. But in Schenn’s case, it’s emblematic of the hard-working playing style which has made him a leader in the dressing room and a fan favorite in Vancouver.
“I remember when I was a rookie, a young’un, he was a guy that never let me off the hook,” said Canucks forward J.T. Miller after Saturday’s game. “I knew that he was a physical man, and for him to bring it for this many years and to continually do it every single night — I mean, he’s got double the next guy in hits on this team, I think — it’s awesome. It’s an unbelievable feat. Coming up on 3,000, too — it’s a pretty special number. So I’m happy for him and glad he’s on our squad.”
Miller’s dead right about those numbers. One month after his 33rd birthday, Schenn is up to 107 hits in 25 games this season — second in the league behind Nicolas Deslauriers of the Philadelphia Flyers (108). It’s actually Miller and Dakota Joshua who are tied for second on the Canucks, with 55 hits each.
Overall, Vancouver is in the middle of the pack in the hit department this season, ranked 15th with 583 hits. The Pittsburgh Penguins lead the category at 775, showing the kind of truculence that must please their leaders, Brian Burke and Ron Hextall.
In fact, the six heaviest-hitting teams in the league this year all hail from the Eastern Conference, with the Ottawa Senators joining five clubs from the Metropolitan Division (Pittsburgh, Philadelphia, the Rangers, the Islanders, Ottawa and Washington, in that order).
“He keeps coming every day,” said Canucks coach Bruce Boudreau of Schenn. “He plays with pain most nights, but he never complains. He just comes out and does his job.”
“It’s not only what he adds to the team,” Boudreau added. “I’m just so proud of him as a person who plays hard every night. He’s a guy that every teammate relies on. So to see him get an NHL record like that, I think it’s great.”
Admittedly, the NHL’s “all-time” hits record has its limitations. The league has only been officially tracking the statistic since after the 2004-05 lockout, so the names on the list are all modern NHLers.
And to be fair, Orpik’s career started in 2003: he played 85 NHL games before his hit counter was activated. Schenn came into the NHL as an 18-year-old, just months after being selected fifth overall by the Toronto Maple Leafs in the 2008 draft.
“Brooks Orpik, I looked up to him in a lot of ways,” Schenn said. “I played a lot against him and he’s a warrior out there — huge in the playoffs and won a couple of Cups. So it’s great to be kind of up there with a guy like that.”
Five forwards are ahead of Schenn on the list, and four of them are still playing — leader Cal Clutterbuck of the New York Islanders (3,647 hits) along with his teammate Matt Martin (3,489), Alex Ovechkin of the Washington Capitals (3,355) and Calgary’s Milan Lucic (3,151). Recently retired Dustin Brown is the fifth name.
“The cool thing is not necessarily the number, but the guys at the top of that list, I think, are honest guys,” said Schenn. “For me, I played against a lot of them. I recognized when they’re on the ice and it’s usually a hard night, a hard shift. So to be up there with those guys, it’s an honor.”
With two points on the line in the waning minutes of a tight 2-2 game, Schenn was caught a bit by surprise when the Canucks ran a video and announced his achievement to the crowd at Rogers Arena as they came out of the final TV timeout of the third period.
His teammates stood and tapped their sticks against the boards. The coaching staff applauded and the crowd extended the moment by chanting “Luke, Luke,” after the puck was dropped and play resumed.
“For the crowd to kind of get on their feet and give me a little bit of an ovation is more than you could ever ask for,” he said. “I’m really, really appreciative to the fan base here.
“I absolutely love playing in Vancouver, and the fans are awesome to us every night. They want to cheer and when when you’re acknowledged like that, you feel really grateful for it.”
Coming into the game with a 3-6-1 record on home ice this season, including losses to Washington and Florida earlier this week, the Canucks were able to send the fans in attendance home on Saturday on a happy note.
After Arizona was called for too many men on the ice with 1:38 remaining in overtime, Bo Horvat picked up his 19th goal of the year and second of the night when he tipped a Quinn Hughes point shot past Karel Vejmelka on a 4-3 power play, with 51 seconds remaining in the extra frame.
The win keeps the Canucks within three points of the second wild-card spot in the Western Conference as of Sunday morning. They’ll close out their homestand when the Montreal Canadiens visit Rogers Arena on Monday (10:30 p.m. ET).
- ‘It’s an Honor’: Canucks’ Luke Schenn Sets NHL Hits Record
- Check all news and articles from the latest NHL updates.