To celebrate the retirement of Trevor Linden’s #16 sweater on Wednesday night at GM Place prior to the game against the Edmonton Oilers, I want to re-state something I said in a post about his impending retirement from the NHL at the end of last season.
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 niceman, 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 Stanley 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.
When people here in Toronto (where I live now) ask me why Trevor Linden’s sweater is worthy of retirement, I recount this particular story from my childhood growing up in the Lower Mainland.
Prior to Linden, my Canucks hero was Patrik Sundstrom. With all due respect to Sundstrom (and Orland Kurtenbach and Stan Smyl), that simply highlights how utterly bereft of hockey heroes this city was before his arrival on the scene in 1989.
What ultimately matters most is the impact the man had on hockey and the relationship between the city of Vancouver (and the province of British Columbia, more generally) and the Vancouver Canucks.
He made the fans proud to be Canucks fans. And for anyone that grew up in and around the city in the 1980s, that is no small feat.