As a boy, Dennis Kearns didn’t dream of playing in the NHL. Some players who make the big league chase down their childhood dream like a puck skittering over a frozen pond. It just never entered Dennis’s mind because he didn’t believe he was good enough.

Growing up in Kingston, Ontario, Dennis was a classic late bloomer. Manning the blueline on outdoor rinks through minor hockey, he was never a star. Cut from Junior A teams, he honed his game in Junior B in Kingston, before being scouted by the WHL’s Portland Buckaroos. After three seasons there, plus one for the Dallas Black Hawks, the Vancouver Canucks signed him at the insistence of Canucks coach Hal Laycoe, who coached Dennis in Portland. The lucky break Dennis needed, he made his NHL debut at the advanced age of 26.

For the next ten seasons, with his pinpoint passing and tough, defensive smarts, Dennis was a cornerstone of the Canucks defence, deemed “the Denis Potvin of the West” by The Hockey News. One of the top defenders in Canucks history, in 677 regular season games he totaled 31 goals, 290 assists, and 321 points—at the time a club record for defencemen. He remains tied for third all-time in scoring for Canucks defencemen and second in assists. Twice he was awarded the Babe Pratt Trophy as the club’s top blueliner.

In 1976-77, Dennis became the first Canucks defenceman to reach 60 points in a season. His club record of 55 assists stood for a remarkable 45 years until broken recently by Quinn Hughes.

At the height of his career, he played for Canada at the IIHF World Ice Hockey Championships in both 1977 and 1978, helping Canada to a bronze medal in the latter.

Written and researched by Jason Beck, Curator of the BC Sports Hall of Fame.

To read more on the career of Dennis Kearns, please see the April 2023 Curator’s Corner article here: