The best thing about Trevor Linden is that he always plays his "'A" game. He is intense, focused and one of the most respected players both on and off the ice.
Before he was drafted second overall by the Canucks in 1988, Linden led the Medicine Hat Tigers to two consecutive championships. He also played a major part in the 1988 gold medal win for the Canadian Junior team.
In his first season as a Canuck, he was tied for the team lead in scoring and his 59 points were good enough for second on the team. He was voted team MVP, the first rookie to be so honoured. He was only 18. He also won the Molson Cup for the most three-star selections and was chosen by The Hockey News as the Rookie of the Year, even though he came in second to Brian Leetch for the Calder Trophy. He also scored seven points in a seven game loss to the eventual Cup winning Flames.
By his third season, he was sharing a rotating captaincy and made his first All-Star appearance. By 21, he was sole team captain, and again, the team scoring leader.
In 1994, despite a mediocre year, the Canucks made it to the Stanley Cup Finals, only to lose in seven games to the New York Rangers. Linden scored both goals in Game Seven's 3-2 loss and he led the team in playoff points.
Between October 4, 1990 and December 3, 1996 Linden played 482 consecutive games, which was the longest streak in the NHL at that time. During the 1996-97 season Linden was also rewarded with the King Clancy Memorial Trophy for his humanitarian efforts.
When Messier and Keenan came to Vancouver, the situation quickly went downhill. In the tradition of a true leader more concerned about the team than his own ego, he handed over the captainship to Messier before the season started.
After being humiliated by Keenan in front of the team, Linden was traded to the Islanders. After only four games in an Islanders uniform, he was given the captaincy.
Though he struggled through injuries and several trades, he still persevered and often was close to the top in scoring when healthy.
After being traded back to Vancouver, it was almost as if he’d never left. He admitted that the night before his first game back in a Vancouver uniform, he couldn’t sleep because he was so excited. His deep attachment to the city and long history of community service has made him one of the most beloved Canucks players. Although he hasn’t worn the “C” in Vancouver since 1997, he is still affectionately referred to as “Captain Canuck.”
Linden founded “Captain’s Kids” to give kids who would otherwise never have the opportunity to see a Canucks game. He’s a big supporter of Canuck Place Hospice, the Ronald McDonald House, Youth Against Violence, and the Children’s Hospital. He won the Gillette World Champion award in 1996, which is given to the Canadian athlete who best demonstrates athletic excellence, sportsmanship and humanitarian efforts.
All told, he’s won Vancouver’s MVP (the Cyclone Taylor Award) four times, the Molson Cup twice, and the Vancouver team leading scorer (the Cyrus H. McLean Trophy) award. He’s had six 30 goal seasons and been an All-Star twice.
He’s never been the best scorer, or the best skater, but he always does the little things right because the little things win or lose a game. Linden’s a big game player, one who knows that games are won and lost on defensive discipline and physical yet unspectacular plays. He always plays with heart and determination. He’s a hockey player’s player.
It’s obvious that he’s very loved and admired not only in Vancouver, but throughout the league. Tonight, at the beginning of the third period, he got a standing ovation. In a very classy move, the Flames players all backed away and gave him center ice. The Flames players on the bench were all banging their sticks against the boards as well in that time-honoured sign of approval.
After the game, Linden was given a standing ovation, and the Flames players, led by Jarome Iginla, all made sure to shake hands with him. Flames players even came out of the locker room to say good bye.
It’s the perfect farewell for one of hockey’s classiest guys. Although he hasn’t and won’t yet make an official declaration, it only seems appropriate to say:
Goodbye Captain Canuck. You’ll be missed.
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