Orland Kurtenbach was one tough son-of-a-gun. Renowned for his toughness on the ice, the Canucks jumped on the 34-year old Kurtenbach when he was available in the 1970 expansion draft and promptly named him their first captain in franchise history. While they weren’t dominant, the Canucks were surprisingly good out of the gate in their inaugural season and that was largely due to Kurtenbach, who thrived under the new responsibilities of leading an NHL club. Things became more problematic for the Canucks as soon as Kurtenbach went down with an injury midway through the season. By the end of the season, Kurtenbach had played in only 52 games, but his 53 points in those games showed the whole story. While Kurtenbach didn’t lead the team in points, everyone knew that he was the true leader of the Canucks. Kurtenbach even finished in 7th for Hart Trophy voting, ahead of the likes of Tony Esposito, who led the league in wins during the season.
In the 1971-72 season, the Canucks were a very bad team, but that didn’t stop Kurtenbach. He set career highs in goals, assists, and points with 24 goals, 37 assists, and 61 points in a full 78-game season. Kurtenbach tied for the team lead in points with teammate Andre Boudrias. Kurtenbach would run into some injury problems in the 1972-73 season, playing on 47 games and managing only 28 points. His role diminished even further in the 1973-74 season as he still dealt with injuries, playing in 52 games and managing 21 points.
After that point, Kurtenbach retired at the age of 37 and went straight to coaching in the CHL where he had noted success, winning the championship with Tulsa. Halfway through the 1976-77 season, Kurtenbach would return to the Canucks as their new head coach, replacing Phil Maloney. Kurtenbach would finish that season and the entirety of the 1977-78 season as the Canucks’ bench boss, but had largely unsuccessful tenure in Vancouver, missing the playoffs in both seasons.
Kurtenbach retired holding the record of the highest points-per-game in a single season for the Canucks at 1.02 in 1970-71. His mark wasn’t passed by a player with more than 12 games for more than 10 years until Thomas Gradin finally surpassed him with a great season in 1981-82. Kurtenbach retired at second on the all-time assist and point totals in Canucks history in 1974. In October of 2010, the Canucks inducted Orland Kurtenbach as the first player to get into the Ring of Honour.
Special thanks to the following users on the Canucks.com forums: