In hockey, you want a guy that goes to the dirty areas on the ice, someone that goes right to the crease and does the spadework when no one else will, and who comes to the rink and does his job the right way without complaint. The Vancouver Canucks have that guy.
No, I’m not talking about a power forward prospect in the Canucks’ system — I’m talking about Devon Whitter, a member of the Canucks Ice Team, who went viral this week for his skating while scraping the crease during stoppages in play.
Visiting Montreal Canadiens journalist Marc-André Perreault took note of Whitter during Monday’s game at Rogers Arena and shared a pair of videos of his routine on Twitter. The consistency is just as impressive as the edge work. According to Whitter, it’s because he’s been doing the same job for a while.
“I've been on the team since 2016,” said Whitter. “For the last two or three years it's kind of been known that I enjoy working the bucket, so thankfully everyone lets me have that spot night in and night out. I've been solely doing the bucket for probably two or three years now and I've got the routine pretty down pat.”
"I've never figure skated in my life."
Quick feet and smooth turns on the ice don’t happen in just a few years, of course, and Whitter’s been on the ice for years, though he’s never been a figure skater like some people guessed.
“I’ve been playing hockey since I was three,” said Whitter. “I’ve never figure skated in my life, but I’ve spent way too much time on a rink. I've worked about every job in hockey that you can think of — I've coached it, I've taught it, I've been the skate patrol guy skating around the rinks at City of Burnaby public skates, I've done the whole nine yards.”
Online, his skating was compared to everyone from P.K. Subban to Shoresy, from the TV show Letterkenny. Whitter said he's enjoyed reading all the comments and cracking up at all the jokes.
His flashy skating, which he acknowledges as “pretty ridiculous” doesn’t get in the way of doing his job cleaning the crease. But does he get the chance to collaborate with the goaltenders who will be using that crease the rest of the night? Does he get any input from goaltenders about how they would like the crease cleaned?
“I wish,” said Whitter. “No, we are not allowed to. There's a whole bunch of stipulations that you're not supposed to be talking to the players — I mean, we give them a heads up to let them know we're coming, because it is an NHL mandated route. So, we have to say, 'Hey heads up, coming behind you,' but other than that we're not supposed to be talking to players whatsoever on the ice. They're in game mode, we're letting them do their thing.”
"I have a blast out there every single night."
When Whitter is in game mode, he plays defence on his beer league team, describing himself as the “smallest defenceman out there.” Accordingly, he takes inspiration from a couple of other undersized defencemen.
“I always appreciated Troy Stecher, I'm sad that he's gone,” said Whitter. “He was one of my favourite players because I saw a lot of myself in a guy like that: not necessarily the biggest bruiser out on the ice — he's no Tyler Myers, that's for sure, in terms of size — but I always appreciated that he was a small guy that made it work.”
“And now Quinn Hughes is here now for my new replacement of a small guy who’s a good defenceman.”
You’re not going to find Whitter on HockeyDB and he laughed at the suggestions online that the Canucks offer him a PTO — “Let’s not kid ourselves,” he said — but he still takes pride in skating on the same ice as NHL players.
“I'm not even close to these guys, so the fact that I can clean their ice is an honour to me,” he said. “It's just fun for me. I have a blast out there every single night and I think it shows.”
"To me, it's picking up snow."
He may not be the Quinn Hughes of the beer league — he tends to get called “Bucket Boy” more often — but his quick skates have gotten him noticed before. Back when fans were in the building, he would occasionally get stopped on the concourse and he had a surreal moment when he was working the 2019 World Juniors when someone stopped him to get a photo.
This latest virality, however, is on another level.
Perreault’s original tweets got some retweets and likes, but the videos were then shared again by other accounts. The original video is nearing 500,000 views. The NHL shared a clip of the video on their YouTube page, garnering another 280,000+ views over the past few days.
“It kind of blows my mind that it got that big,” said Whitter. “To me, it's picking up snow, and it's doing my job and having fun doing my job. So to see it get that big is very funny to me and I absolutely love it. I'm happy that I can put a smile on some people's faces.”