Safety or style?
For Ben Hutton it’s neither. It’s earned.
The 22-year-old defenceman grew up in Prescott, Ontario, 45-minutes outside of Ottawa and Thursday night will be his first game in the rink he’d watch the Senators in with his dad.
His family, friends and likely three-quarters of Prescott will be in attendance and that makes Hutton smile. To be fair, most things make Hutton smile, but this is an even bigger, wider, Joker grin, albeit less sinister.
Bo Horvat is as excited to play in Toronto in front of his friends and family and sitting in their stalls after practice, the youngsters talked helmets.
“I think we go no buckets and let it flow,” laughed Horvat.
“Ya? That’d be sick,” replied Hutton.
In hockey terms, a bucket is a helmet and wearing one in pre-game warm-up is optional. As Hutton explained, not wearing a helmet means the fan get a better look at you, you can feel the wind in your hair and it’s just cool.
As you may recall, a helmetless Ryan Kesler was hit in the head by a puck in Vancouver last March and he had to leave the ice for stitches. That’s not cool, but I get where Hutton is coming from.
He’ll have his helmet on.
“I’m not worried about getting hit,” said Hutton, “to me, it has to be earned. It’s more of a veteran thing. You always see the older guys without lids on, but rarely the rookies.”
Hutton is a rookie, that’s right. Talk about a player flying under the radar. He came into camp, surprised everyone and continues to with his smooth, smart play and now he’s a major part of Vancouver’s defence.
There wasn’t any hoopla about him making the team like there was for Jake Virtanen and Jared McCann, and Bo Horvat last season, although Hutton’s smile vanishes when asked if he feels left out.
“I saw coach start playing those bad clips of Virt and McCann and all I could think was ‘oh man, I’m next’,” said Hutton, demonstrating how he slunk back into his stall in the Canucks dressing room that day. “I was so happy for those guys and so happy I wasn’t involved too!”
And the smile returns.
The lack of early season fanfare about Hutton will make Thursday’s game more special for him, because regardless of if he wants it or not, he’s earned a moment in the spotlight, a salute from Canucks fans and the in-person cheers of friends and family.
In fact, maybe he’s earned the right to leave his bucket behind?
Someday, it’s on his bucket list.
It’s tough to not be excited for Hutton, who was surrounded by media after practice Wednesday in Ottawa. He had dinner with friends last night and had more than enough time to visit family Thursday pre-game, if he chose to, as the Canucks didn’t have a game day skate.
The weather is rainy and windy in Ottawa today and the forecast calls for more. Hunker down in the press box for a Canucks game? Yes please!
One week down, one week to go. Talk from Toronto!