Derek Dorsett

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Derek Dorsett takes a walk down memory lane while issuing one last request

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Derek Dorsett‘s world came crashing down on him last week.

After being sent back to Vancouver following stiffness in his surgically repaired neck, Dorsett was given the devastating news that he would never play another game in the National Hockey League.

Dorsett missed 68 games last season due to the surgery, which was brutal in nature. But he was back on the ice to begin the regular season for the Vancouver Canucks, and he was just beginning to heat up on a line with Brandon Stutter and Sam Gagner. Dorsett had seven goals and nine assists in 20 games.

On Tuesday, Dorsett, a week removed from the life-changing news, penned a story on the Canucks’ website.

In a well-written, heartfelt letter to fans, Dorsett issued one request to them: 

There are a lot of people I want to thank. And I’m going to get to them.

But if there’s one thing I want you to know, it’s that I don’t want anyone to feel sorry for me. If you could give me a script and say, “This is the story of your life,” I would do it over and over again, a billion times. Hockey gave me every opportunity I could dream of. I lived the dream every Canadian kid wants to have. I got to play in the greatest league in the world, in the greatest sport in the world.

So, don’t feel sorry for me.

Dorsett wrote about his life growing up a prairie kid in Kindersley, Saskatchewan, how his parents’ hard work ethic and support, which laid the path that he would eventually take to get him to the NHL. He wrote about his bewilderment at receiving college scholarships, making the decision to play in the Western Hockey League, getting under the skin of now-Ottawa Senators defenseman Dion Phaneuf, then playing in Red Deer, and his amazement at making the big leagues later on.

There are many more tales, all worth reading, including Dorsett detailing what led up to his surgery last season.

He ends it by getting to those thank yous, and declaring that hockey game him “everything he ever wanted and more.”

“It led me to my wife and kids,” Dorsett writes. “I’m going to enjoy a long life with them.”


Scott Billeck is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @scottbilleck

Canucks’ Derek Dorsett sees career ended by spinal issues

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The Vancouver Canucks announced Thursday morning that forward Derek Dorsett will not play again due to health reasons and the risks that would come should he suit up again.

The 30-year-old Dorsett left the team last week while dealing with complications from spinal surgery last season. After missing 68 games in 2016-17, he returned this season and got off to a great start scoring seven goals and recording nine points in 20 games.

“I think the symptoms just slowly came around the last week or so,” Canucks head coach Travis Green said last week. “He’s been kind of dealing with it the past several days, week.”

Dorsett released a statement via the Canucks:

“I’m devastated by the news. It will take a long time for this to truly sink in. As hard as it was to hear, Dr. Watkins’ diagnosis is definitive. There is no grey area, and it gives me clarity to move forward. I have a healthy young family and a long life of opportunities ahead of me. Hockey taught me a lot and it will help me be successful in whatever I choose to do in the future. I still have so many thoughts to share and people to thank for all of their support.

“What I can say for certain right now is that I left it all out on the ice. I gave my heart and soul to the teams I played for and never backed down from a challenge, including this one. I am proud of the way I played. It made me successful and a good teammate. Most of all I am truly honoured and grateful to have lived the NHL dream.”

The surgery, which he spoke with NHL.com’s Kevin Woodley about recently, saw doctors remove bone from his hip to graft into a disk in his neck. It was similar to the one that cost Peyton Manning the 2011 NFL season with the Indianapolis Colts.

Dorsett, a seventh-round pick in 2006, has played 515 NHL games with three teams over 10 seasons. That’s a pretty fine career considering the long odds he faced at the start. So there was no question that despite the issues he faced he was going to do whatever he could to play again until his body told him it was over.

“It’s the only thing I know,” he told Woodley. “I’ve played hockey since I was 3 years old, and as soon as I made the decision to get surgery, my focus was to recover and play again. There was never any doubt.”

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Sean Leahy is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @Sean_Leahy.

Canucks’ Dorsett returns to Vancouver for precautionary reasons

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Derek Dorsett’s remarkable comeback story has taken an unfortunate turn.

Dorsett won’t play on Tuesday in Philadelphia against the Flyers and may be sidelined for some time after the Canucks revealed Dorsett is dealing with complications that appear to stem from last season’s spinal surgery, which forced him to miss 68 games last season.

Via the Canucks Twitter account:

Derek Dorsett returned to Vancouver today for precautionary reasons to be evaluated by medical staff. His rehab following a cervical fusion procedure last year progressed well, consistent with expectations, and resulted in his fitness to play.

Recently, symptoms of neck and back stiffness presented. Given the nature of the injury and surgery, it was determined the best course of action is for a specialist to review his status. Derek will be assessed to determine cause and treatment of the symptoms before any further action is taken.

Dorsett’s surgery, according to Sportsnet, was a brutal procedure of getting “cut through the front of his neck, pull his vocal chords aside, remove a damaged disc between his C5 and C6 vertebrae, replace it with a washer and chunk of bone from his hip, then screw the vertebrae together so the tissue could fuse.”

Canucks head coach Travis Green spoke to the media prior to Tuesday’s game.

“I think the symptoms just slowly came around the last week or so,” Green said. “He’s been kind of dealing with it the past several days, week.”

Playing in a fourth-line checking role, Dorsett had also found his scoring touch with seven goals and nine points playing with Brandon Sutter and Sam Gagner.

Green didn’t want Tuesday’s setback to take away from Dorsett’s comeback this season.

“I don’t want to talk like it was a remarkable comeback. It still is,” Green said. “He’s had a great start to the year, he’s been a big part of our team. Hopefully, he’s joining our group again soon.”

Green said it was too early to talk about when Dorsett would play again.

“I think we just call it wait and see… that’s all there is right now,” he said.


Scott Billeck is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @scottbilleck

Linden: Canucks summer moves about ‘long-term vision’

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The Vancouver Canucks have certainly had their critics this summer, but president Trevor Linden insists everything is going according to plan.

“There’s no question that, after seeing things for a year, I knew we had to make some changes and get to a better place,” Linden told the Vancouver Province. “There were things I wasn’t happy with. I knew we had to do some restructuring and put new processes in place.

“That’s what I’ve spent the last month doing, and I’m really excited about the changes we’ve made. Whether they show up in wins and losses this season, I don’t know, but this is a long-term vision.”

Convincing others that his and Canucks GM Jim Benning’s vision is the right one though will take some doing. After all, Benning got booed by season ticket holders when he revealed that he could have traded Ryan Miller, but opted to deal Eddie Lack instead (that trade came with a return of two picks — third and seventh rounders). There’s been a number of other divisive moves in Vancouver, from giving Luca Sbisa and Derek Dorsett’s significant contracts to the acquisition and five-year, $21.875 million signing of “foundation piece” Brandon Sutter.

How those moves work out will go a long way towards determining Benning and Linden’s popularity in the short-term. However, if Vancouver is to be successful, it will need to see results when it comes to the drafting and developing of prospects. That was an issue for the Canucks for years beginning with the start of the cap era, but Bo Horvat’s solid rookie season might someday be viewed as a turning point.

“To me, the two most important things moving forward are the amateur scouting side and the player development side, and there are many aspects to player development,” Linden said. “There’s strength and conditioning, there’s sports science, there’s the medical side, nutrition, and they all have to be integrated.

“The only way we’re going to get better is to draft and develop our players. Then we have to do a good job of developing them and getting them here as quickly as possible. That takes up most of my time.”

So for now the Canucks still have a pretty old core, but perhaps in a few years the franchise will start to see the rewards of Linden’s focus on drafting and developing. In the end, the work he’s doing there could pay far greater dividends than the more high profile trades and signings Vancouver has recently engaged in.

Under Pressure: Jim Benning

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For the last four months or so, it’s hard to find a Jim Benning move that wasn’t met with criticism.

It started in April when the Canucks signed Luca Sbisa and Derek Dorsett to hefty contract extensions and didn’t let up as the likes of Eddie Lack, Zack Kassian and Kevin Bieksa were traded.

Benning was even booed at an event for season ticket-holders when it was revealed that starting goalie Ryan Miller could’ve been traded instead of Lack, a fan favorite who’s not only younger and less expensive but had a higher save percentage than Miller last season.

Most recently, Benning’s claim that Brandon Sutter, acquired in a trade with Pittsburgh, would be a “foundation piece” for the Canucks was mocked by many. The five-year extension that Sutter proceeded to sign got the same treatment.

Suffice to say, the honeymoon is over for Vancouver’s general manager, who’s only been on the job since May of last year.

Benning, throughout it all, has not wavered.

“Sitting in my shoes, and when I talk to my management team, we have to make the decision that’s best for the organization going forward,” he said at the draft when asked about trading a fan favorite like Lack.

“I know if that’s the way we decide to go, I could get criticized. But that’s part of the job. There’s nothing I can do about that.”

Hired in large part for his experience as a scout, it won’t be entirely fair to judge Benning until his draft picks pan out, or don’t.

But there’s no doubt his recent moves have put him under increasing pressure. If Vancouver takes a step back next season — and many expect that to happen — that pressure will only build.