Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Nothing but class

The Vancouver Canucks retired number 16 on Wednesday, a fitting tribute to one of the classiest, hardest working Canucks to ever pull on a jersey, whatever version happened to be in vogue at the time.

Trevor Linden is by far the poster boy for what is a Canuck, from his earliest days with a struggling team to the beloved leader of Stanley Cup finalists, Linden gave his all every shift of every game, dogging it was not his style, nothing but effort was to be expected when he came across the boards.

He lifted his teams with his work ethic, with his quiet leadership and with timely goals at just the right time. Yet it was more than his hockey talents and leadership skills that impressed Vancouver fans, his attachment to the city, his tireless hours on behalf of the city's charities, his never ending desire to be an inclusive force on what sometimes tried to be a cliquish operation, all of it adds to the Linden legend in Vancouver.

His greatest moment and perhaps at the same time his most disappointing one, came in the Stanley Cup final of 1994, a heated battle between the Canucks and Rangers, one which saw Linden hobbled by injuries, return to the ice to lead his team in a battle that came just one game short of delivering Vancouver its long cherished Stanley Cup parade.

Denied the chance to hoist Lord Stanley's Cup through his career, Linden still managed to carry himself in only the most exemplary stature, a tribute to his focus and no doubt to his upbringing.

The ultimate of team players, negativity was never a visitor in the dressing room or on the ice, while there must have been disappointments in his days as a Canuck, the Keenan years no doubt the darkest of days, Linden still held his head high, played his game as only he could full tilt and regrettably accepted his exile from Vancouver during the Canucks most dysfunctional period.

Fortunately for common sense, that short sighted move of the Keenan years was reversed shortly after Iron Mikes departure, Linden returned for his final years with the only team that should really have ever been on his resume.

Wednesday night, the Canucks set the record straight, reclaiming their captain for the ages with a well planned and executed pre game show that highlighted all that is good about the game as played by a player of Linden's calibre.

The opposition was the Edmonton Oilers, who probably weren't aware that it was their franchise that Linden had his most success against over the years, an interesting observation pointed out during the pre game show.

As if to play the perfect guests, the went down to defeat to the Canucks on Wednesday, allowing the current Canucks to honour their past icon with two points and a perfect ending to his special night.

For those that seek the universe unfolding as it should, the only regret might have been that the Calgary Flames were not the visitors.

It would have been a wonderful thing to behold as the huge and emotional crowd at GM Place saluted the face and heart of the franchise, a move that might even have made an impression on the one villain of the Linden years in Vancouver, that being Mike Keenan.

Perhaps he caught the ceremonies on the sports highlight shows, and perhaps now, after all these years he may finally understand the special connection between Linden and the Canuck fans, a connection that was interrupted needlessly at the time, but fortunately has been forever reduced to but a footnote in what was a very remarkable career.

Wednesday night he joined Stan Smyl in the rafters of GM Place, the only two jersey numbers to be retired by the Canucks since they joined the NHL, its of interest to note that their traits were quite similar during their days in a Canuck uniform, future Canucks may wish to understand the measure of success, by those that led the way from the past.

National Post-- Linden salutes ‘incredible fans’ during ceremony
National Post-- Canucks send Linden off with a win
Globe and Mail-- Captain Canuck
Globe and Mail-- Linden revs up Canucks

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