Harold, Man of the People

Former Canuck Harold Snepsts was honored by the team in a team Ring of Honor ceremony earlier this week.

Snepsts, who played 17 seasons in the NHL (12) with the Vancouver club, was a fan favorite from the very start of his career. An unheralded 59th overall pick from Edmonton juniors, he surprised the team executives (and the fans) in the fall of ’74 by combining a rugged style of play with a tenacious never-quit spirit.

Chants of “Haaarrold, Haaarrrold” echoed through the Rogers Arena Monday night before the Canucks’ game against the Minnesota Wild. It was reminiscent of the same shouts from his rookie year in 1974 when the lanky defenceman with limited skills would play his heart out on every shift.

Fans of a team are never wrong when they “choose” a fan favorite. New York Yankee fans of the ’70s picked Reggie Jackson – not because of his mediocre season batting average or high strikeout to at-bat ratio but because in October he came to life.

Snepsts coming out of his own end with the puck was an adventure. Fans wondered, for a second if the puck was filled with nitroglycerin, the way he lugged it; but he always tried his best and more often than not got the job done. The team drafted, and eventually traded away or cut, a planeload of skilled drafted defenceman who would turn to jelly when the Philadelphia Flyers or Boston Bruins came to town.

The first round draft picks of the Canucks eventually were weeded out of the NHL but Snepsts made it over 1000 games over a 17-year career. Not bad for a 59th overall pick who wasn’t expected to make the team.

The humble Snepsts said later he was “honored” to have played in the league so long .

Cono Spitale

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