On Saturday night the Canucks play what might immediately appear to be an utterly meaningless game against Calgary. With the Canucks now firmly ensconced as a non-playoff team they have nowhere to go but down the standings (and up the ladder to a higher draft position); meanwhile, Calgary having already qualified for the playoffs means that the Canucks will not even be able to play spoiler in any meaningful sense.
Notwithstanding this obvious fact, Vancouver fans should pay mind that this game more than likely represents Trevor Linden’s last in the NHL.
Scouring all manner of hockey blogs the last few days serves to reinforce that fans in other Canadian cities (particularly the seemingly endless supply of self-championed super fans in Calgary and Edmonton) love to rip Vancouver for its lack of historical success and the lack of star players to remember fondly. While there is not much to say to acquit the Canucks on either count, we Canucks fans at least can cherish the memories that our erstwhile captain brought to this city; the hope he invigorated in a franchise that had been utterly bereft of any before he was selected second overall in the 1988 NHL entry draft.
Trevor Linden may not be judged a superstar over the course of his career but one thing he was unfailingly is a leader. He took this team to within two goals of winning that elusive Stanley Cup in 1994, a year no one who has ever followed the Canucks will forget. (The picture above really does say it all.) He stood accountable for everything this team did and did not accomplish during his time in the city. Most of all, he took this team into the community and made fans feel like the team meant something to the city. (Trust me, growing up in the 1980s in Vancouver the team had little to no marked presence in the city.)
I would like to share a personal memory of Trevor Linden, as my own tribute to the man and what he means to the city of Vancouver and Canucks fans in particular. When I was about 11 years old (this is 1991), Trevor made an appearance at the local Safeway in Coquitlam and my mum took me and my brother to go see him. After waiting in line for a solid hour, we eventually walked up to the table where Trevor was seated. To this day I remember vividly how young he looked (he was 21 or so at that time). I remember also being completely in awe. I asked him to sign my Trevor Linden rookie card and a copy of Breakaway (the old Canucks program) with his photo on the cover. Trevor happily obliged, of course, but he also asked me whether I played, who my favourite player was, etc. He was, as he is now and always has been, a genuinely nice man, even as a 21 year old kid. I asked him if he could make sure the Canucks would finally win the Stanley Cup. He said he would do his best.
It makes me profoundly sad–and I mean this with the most sincerity and feeling I can muster–that Trevor never did and now never will (at least not as a player) lift the Stanely Cup wearing a Canucks sweater. As much as you can say this, he deserved it. We deserved it.
I hope one day, when the day finally comes for Vancouver fans to celebrate a Stanley Cup, Trevor Linden is there to experience and share in that victory.
So long, Trevor.