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For Canucks’ Lorne Henning, new Stanley Cup finals thrills

From Vancouver, Canada

Some people spend years in the NHL and never reach the Stanley Cup finals. Lorne Henning, vice president of player personnel and assistant general manager of the Vancouver Canucks, has reached that pinnacle seven times and it never gets old for him.

Henning got his name on the Cup as a player for the New York Islanders in 1980 after he assisted on Bob Nystrom’s Cup-clinching goal. A speedy forward who was an excellent penalty killer, Henning was a player-coach on the Islanders’ 1981 championship team and became an assistant coach when they won their third and fourth titles. He also was an assistant coach when the Islanders’ drive for five was stopped by the Edmonton Oilers in 1984.

He eventually moved on and was an assistant coach of the Ducks under Mike Babcock during the team’s 2003 Cup run, again on the losing side. Henning spent one more season with the Ducks before being let go when Brian Burke took over as general manager after the lockout.

“My contract was up and Burkie came in and changed people,” said Henning, who still lives in Irvine.

“At that time Steve Tambellini, my old Islanders teammate, was an assistant general manager in Vancouver and I contacted him and I was hired and started working for the Canucks.”

For his first three years he was the Canucks’ pro scout. For the last three years he has been assistant general manager and a liaison between the Canucks and their farm team — which has been forced out of Winnipeg by the Atlanta Thrashers’ move north — as well as a liaison between Canucks coaches and management.

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Reaching the Cup finals with the Canucks is a different kind of satisfaction for him because he’s seeing the contributions of kids he helped guide through the development process. Sitting beside General Manager Mike Gillis on Wednesday, Henning beamed when Raffi Torres’ late goal gave the Canucks a 1-0 victory over the Boston Bruins to open the finals.

“It was very exciting, though it was just one small step,” he said. “I certainly thought our guys played well.”

Should they play well enough to win three more games, Henning will have a new experience: bringing the Cup back to Canada to fans whose exhilaration grows exponentially every day.

“The fans here are so passionate,” he said. “This is the third time the Canucks have been in the finals in their history — we’re one of the teams that haven’t won it. The fans are really starved for the Cup. I’ve been on a lot of teams but you really appreciate how passionate it is in Canadian cities.”

Southland ties

A few other players in the Cup finals have connections to the Ducks or Kings.

Boston reserve defenseman Steven Kampfer was drafted by the Ducks 93rd overall in 2007 but was traded to the Bruins in March 2010 for a conditional fourth-round pick. And Boston forward Shawn Thornton, who was scratched Wednesday, played on the Ducks’ 2006-07 Cup championship team and soon afterward signed with Boston as a free agent.

Canucks defenseman Aaron Rome played one regular-season game and one playoff game for the Cup-winning Ducks. He didn’t get his name engraved on the Cup but did get a ring. Canucks winger Jeff Tambellini, a 2003 first-round pick by the Kings, played his third postseason game Wednesday with four shifts for two minutes 30 seconds’ ice time.

Vancouver center Maxim Lapierre played 21 games with the Ducks this season after being acquired from Montreal but was ineffective. The Ducks traded him to the Canucks at the deadline with minor league center MacGregor Sharp for Joel Perrault and a third-round draft pick in 2012.

But Lapierre did have something to show for his pit stop in Anaheim. He entered the interview room Thursday wearing an Angels cap, which a Canucks publicist replaced with a Canucks hat before he faced the reporters and TV cameras.

helene.elliott@latimes.com

twitter.com/helenenothelen


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