Newspaper article The Canadian Press

Local Product Mike Santorelli off to Quick Start with Vancouver Canucks

Newspaper article The Canadian Press

Local Product Mike Santorelli off to Quick Start with Vancouver Canucks

Article excerpt

Santorelli off to quick start with Canucks

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VANCOUVER - Mike Santorelli has vivid memories of growing up a fan of the Vancouver Canucks.

He recalls going to Game 4 of the 1994 Stanley Cup final as an eight year old -- the night that New York Rangers goalie Mike Richter made a memorable penalty shot save on Vancouver superstar Pavel Bure.

"My dad and I went," Santorelli said recently, the excitement still in his voice. "It was at the Pacific Coliseum and Bure was taken down on that partial breakaway ...

"Everyone was standing. It was wild."

The Canucks lost that night and went on to lose the series in seven games. But nearly 20 years later, that young boy in the stands from nearby Burnaby, B.C., is making an early mark with his hometown team.

The 27-year-old Santorelli has been one of Vancouver's biggest surprises so far in 2013-14, scoring four goals -- including two in overtime -- in his first seven games.

"It's obviously the dream of every Vancouver minor hockey kid to get a chance to play for (the Canucks)," he said. "It's been unbelievable."

Santorelli, whose uncle works as a security guard at Rogers Arena and chats with his nephew after every game, has become a favourite of new head coach John Tortorella, sometimes finding himself on the Canucks' top line with Henrik and Daniel Sedin when the team needs a spark.

"Everywhere I put him, something happens," Tortorella said after Santorelli's overtime goal against New Jersey last week. "Right now, everything I do with him, he does great things for us."

But there were no guarantees Santorelli, a sixth-round pick of the Nashville Predators back in 2004, would even be in the NHL when he signed with Vancouver as a free agent in July.

A 20-goal man with Florida back in 2010-11, the six-foot, 189-pound forward scored just 11 times the last two seasons. He was placed on waivers by the Panthers during the lockout-shortened campaign and was claimed by the Winnipeg Jets, who allowed him to enter free agency.

With the salary cap coming down and the league's middle class of players getting squeezed, Santorelli's deal with the Canucks -- a one-year, two-way contract that pays him $550,000 in the NHL, but just $250,000 in the minors -- was a big-time pay cut from the $1. …

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