VANCOUVER — New Vancouver Canuck centre Manny Malhotra has been a resident of the city for a full month now and he's witnessed a few things since settling in.
Here's a partial list:
• He's watched brother-in-law Martin Nash and his Whitecaps tie a soccer match “they should have won but it was exciting.”
• He's been through the rainiest Vancouver day in more than five years, something he was hoping “I wouldn't see this early ... perfect start.”
• He's figured out that every move a Canuck makes is big news and talk-show fodder, “anywhere you go, you hear people talking Canucks hockey, it's definitely going to be a fun year.”
• Finally, he's recognizing the impact he's having on Vancouver's Indo-Canadian community, which is already embracing him for his heritage. His father is from Lahore, the capital of the province of Punjab in Pakistan. Manny's full name is Emmanuel Noveen Malhotra.
“Once you start to think about it, it's a pretty cool experience,” the Toronto-born and raised Malhotra said Wednesday, discussing his ethnicity with reporters following an informal skate at UBC. “When kids and families come up to you and say, you know, 'we're excited you're here, we watch hockey because of your background,' it's a cool feeling to have that.”
Malhotra is only the second player of East-Indian heritage to even reach the National Hockey League. Duncan's Robin Bawa was the first and he never established himself as a regular, appearing in just 61 games — two of them with the Canucks — over a 12-year pro career.
Malhotra, by the way, never considered himself a trail blazer growing up in the Centre of the Universe.
“Toronto is such a melting pot and multicultural city, I never really stood out in any way, shape or form,” he said. “I never put any thought into it until I became a pro. I guess at this level, and the position we're in, we're just kind of in that role of being in the media quite a bit. People analyze everything you do as a Canuck so it definitely makes you kind of keep your nose clean and mind your P's and Q's and all that kind of stuff.
“You hope you're doing things the right way and that would lead people to kind of follow in the path.”
There are other players of colour and with Asian backgrounds in the NHL, which is why Malhotra didn't consider himself any sort of big deal.
“There have been so many guys before,” he noted. “Obviously Robin Bawa is the only East Indian but there have been so many guys who have blazed trails, so to speak, in different aspects and in different ethnicities, so I don't think of myself in that regard at all.”
Needless to say, Malhotra will be embraced by every citizen of the province if he can help bring a Stanley Cup to Vancouver, a feat not done since the 1915 Millionaires led by Cyclone Taylor. Malhotra is expected to anchor the Canucks' third line, kill penalties and win faceoffs. He signed a three-year deal worth $7.5 million on July 1. He's 30 now and has 729 games, including playoffs, on his curriculum vitae.
Malhotra's prowess in the circle — he won 62.5 per cent of his faceoffs last season, 58 per cent in 2008-09 — should clearly help the Canucks' sad-sack penalty kill. It's a nice weapon to have. His secret?
“I can't tell you that,” he chuckled. “That's going too in-depth right now.”
But seriously, folks ...
“It's quickness, it's hand-eye, it's being tough on the puck, it's a mixture of things, I guess,” Malhotra explained. “As you get more experienced, you learn from guys, you learn what works and what doesn't work for you. You get a little smarter so it's definitely something I've worked on my whole career.
“I think more and more teams are putting far greater emphasis on faceoffs,” he added. “You see more specialists throughout the league.”
ICE CHIPS: The Canucks announced Wednesday that pre-season tickets will go on sale Friday at 10 a.m. Vancouver will play host to the Flames, Oilers, Ducks and Sharks in their four home exhibitions at Rogers Arena.