Thomas Gradin is a huge reason I became a Canucks fan. I was six years old and when I saw him skate for the first time on that very rare TV appearance, I knew I was hooked. My family wasn’t all that big into hockey at the time, I grew up watching a lot more football up to that point. Also, I was six, I just learned to write my name and here I am trying to figure out which hockey team I was going to cheer? It was 1981 and Gradin was the first player to ever possess such a high level of natural skill. He was a far cry from his linemates, Curt Fraser, and much more refined than Stan Smyl, with his hockey gifts. However, that rookie line worked out quite well together.
Gradin was drafted by the Chicago Blackhawks in 1978 in the 3rd round, 45th overall. He came to play for the Canucks via a trading of his contract rights. Oddly enough, Gradin also was drafted into the WHA by the Winnipeg Jets in the 1st round, 9th overall. He became one of the first Europeans to join the Canucks organization along with his fellow Swedes, Lars Zetterstrom and Lars Lindgren. In his rookie year, Gradin scored 20 goals, 31 assists for 51 points. He shared the Cyclone Taylor award for Canucks MVP with goaltender, Glen Hanlon.
On March 8th, 1985, Thomas Gradin scored his 500th NHL career point, becoming the first Canuck to reach that Milestone. The Canucks defeated the LA Kings that night, 4-3.
Gradin spent eight seasons with the Vancouver Canucks and one with the Boston Bruins before calling it a career in the NHL. He returned to Sweden to play in the SEL for another three years before retiring as a player. In 1994, Gradin came back to the Canucks organization as an amateur scout. Presently he is the Associated Head Scout, a role he has held since 2007.
Notable names Thomas Gradin has helped bring to the Canucks organization:
- Matthias Ohlund
- Daniel Sedin
- Henrik Sedin
- Alex Edler
On January 24, 2011, Gradin was inducted into the Canucks Ring of Honour. He ended his NHL careeer with 209 goals, 384 assists and 593 points. Fittingly enough, Gradin averaged just above 23 goals/year in his NHL career. Thanks Thomas, for validating my reason to become a Canucks fan way back when. You’ve helped mould that six year old’s sports passion and especially for the Canucks.
That’s #TICH today, March 8, 1985.