VANCOUVER – Without hockey’s grandest stage the last four weeks, Tanner Pearson has been eclipsed in fame by both his father and his son.
Tim Pearson is an executive with Bauer Hockey, which announced two weeks ago it was joining the fight against the coronavirus pandemic by adapting plants in Quebec and New York to manufacture medical face shields instead of hockey visors. Bauer shared blueprints for the shield on its website.
And Tucker Pearson, who turns one in May, has become a social media superstar after his dad posted a video on April 1 of the toddler belly-laughing uncontrollably as Tanner lobbed shots against him with a squishy ball. As we write this, the video has been viewed 181,000 times. It is impossible to watch Tucker chuckling without also laughing.
Even Tanner’s dog, Emma, is almost more famous than the Vancouver Canucks winger after winning an on-ice race against mutts belonging to teammates during an intermission at Rogers Arena in February.
The National Hockey League? Yeah, it seems like a long time ago.
“He’s kind of at the age where he’s a lot of fun, buzzing around the house,” Pearson said Wednesday of Tucker during a video conference for reporters. “He brings a joy to your day every day. To see him grow, and not miss out on anything, to see him every day is pretty cool.”
As with most players, one of the few benefits for Pearson of the NHL suddenly halting on March 12 is the rare opportunity for quality family time during what has always been hockey season.
Tanner and his wife Meaghan took their family home to Kitchener, Ont., soon after players were released by their clubs on March 16.
Pearson said it is strange being unable to train properly while self-isolating. At least he can play mini-sticks with Tucker.
“I’m trying to make him more of a Chris Tanev than a Marky,” Pearson joked, referring to his shot-blocking Canucks teammate and Vancouver goalie Jacob Markstrom. “That was a good video. He was loving a ball being shot at him, that’s for sure, which is oddly weird. He was (laughing) for a solid minute-and-a-half before we actually started the video. He was having a good day.”
At one point, Emma, a shepherd-collie cross, video-bombed Pearson during his 20-minute press conference. Both need regular exercise.
“My house is fairly new so I don’t really have a lot of stuff here,” Pearson said when asked about trying to stay fit in case the NHL resumes in late spring or summer. “The last week and a half I’ve been buying stuff. The first thing I did when I got home was buy a Peloton (stationary bike). Just anything you can really do to stick with it.
“It’s weird because you can’t even get on any ice or go to the gym. You’re strapping up the rollerblades and going out for a wheel around town.”
The veteran was wheeling for the Canucks all winter.
Pearson built a bounce-back season by scoring 21 goals and a career-high 45 points in 69 games while playing with Bo Horvat on a matchup line. And while six of Pearson’s goals were into an empty net – it was indicative of coach Travis Green’s trust in Pearson that he was used so frequently to defend a late lead – it was impossible not to see how much better the player was than last season, when he was traded twice.
Including the nine goals he scored at the end of last season after he was acquired from Pittsburgh at the 2019 trade deadline for Erik Gudbranson, Pearson has 30 goals in 88 games for the Canucks.
He has reignited his career in Vancouver.
“I’ve always believed in myself that I can score 20 goals in this league,” Pearson said. “Especially after how last year… ended with the Canucks and that hot streak, it gave me a boost of confidence. Definitely proved to myself what I can do if I really buckle down and have fun with the game and just focus on the little things.”
Pearson said what made the Canucks special this season was how close the players, and even their spouses, became. When play stopped, Vancouver was tied in points for the final playoff spot in the Western Conference, behind on a tiebreaker but in post-season position on winning percentage.
They look like a playoff team, but will have to prove it if the NHL finds a way to finish its season by staging games in July and August. Pearson turns 28 on Aug. 10.
“If you’d have told me five years ago to think about playing an NHL game on my birthday, I probably would have told you you were crazy,” Pearson, who could have said five weeks, told reporters. “But right now, crazier things are happening.
“I don’t know who would be more upset (playing on Aug. 10) because that’s my wedding anniversary, too. That’s a testy one.”
Pearson would love to find out.