Sixteen defining moments in Trevor Linden's career

 

 
 
 
 
Trevor Linden celebrating after scoring a goal against the Dallas Stars in the third period during game four of the 2007 NHL Western Conference quarterfinals on April 17, 2007 in Dallas, Texas.
 

Trevor Linden celebrating after scoring a goal against the Dallas Stars in the third period during game four of the 2007 NHL Western Conference quarterfinals on April 17, 2007 in Dallas, Texas.

Photograph by: Ronald Martinez/Getty Images, Ronald Martinez/Getty Images

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Linden moment #1 - The day he was drafted, June 11, 1988.

It was really up to the Minnesota North Stars. They had the first pick in the 1988 NHL entry draft so they would be making the decision for Canuck general manager Pat Quinn. If the Stars selected Prince Albert Raider centre Mike Modano, Quinn would happily take Medicine Hat Tiger winger Trevor Linden. If the Stars chose Linden, Quinn would get Modano. "Right now, I'd take either one," the big Irishman declared during a pre-draft scouting mission to Medicine Hat. Minnesota finally ended the suspense at the June 11 draft in Montreal by announcing Modano was its man. Quinn then called Linden's name and Vancouver's love affair with the lanky forward was born. "We've heard a lot of good things about Linden," said Quinn at the time. "He has shown a lot of leadership skills early in life and usually those patterns don't change. From what we hear, he's a coach's dream, a player you can put out on the ice in almost every situation." A gangly 6-3 and 185 pounds, Linden had just turned 18 and was coming off back-to-back Memorial Cup championships with the Tigers. His GM in Medicine Hat, Russ Farwell, predicted Linden would need another season of junior to fill out and become stronger. Linden, of course, had other plans. "My main goal in life is to play in the NHL and I'll do whatever it takes to get there," Linden said. Less than four months later, on Oct. 6, 1988, Linden made his NHL debut against the Winnipeg Jets.

Linden moment #2 - First multiple-goal game, Oct. 29, 1988

Eleven games into his first NHL season, Trevor Linden recorded his first multiple-goal game and his first winning goal. The 18-year-old right winger connected on the power play at 3:18 of the third period against Chicago Blackhawk netminder Darren Pang, finishing off passes from Greg Adams and Paul Reinhart. Linden's tally increased the Canucks' lead to 3-1 in a game that settled out 5-2. He also scored Vancouver's fourth goal, with assists from Petri Skriko and Larry Melnyk later in the third. Canuck head coach Bob McCammon admitted that Linden was performing beyond his expectations. The kid had eight points in his first 11 outings. "I didn't think he'd play this well," McCammon said. "He hasn't had many bad nights. And what you're seeing is only a portion of how good he is going to be." Reinhart, the veteran defenceman who had come over from the Calgary Flames, was also impressed. "He's big, strong and he handles the puck very well," noted Reinhart. "He played with a lot of composure for a young guy. You can see his confidence growing." Linden agreed that it was all about confidence. He was uncertain, he admitted, how his junior moves would translate to the NHL. "You think you can't make the same plays you made in junior but I'm finding that I can," he said. "It's that it just takes time to learn." Interestingly, the man coaching the Blackhawks that night was none other than Mike Keenan, who in later years would figure in one of Linden's darkest hockey moments.

Linden moment #3 - Player rep Linden bemoans strike, April 3, 1992

Trevor Linden never asked to be a union player rep, he just wanted to play hockey. But sometimes stuff happens and that is how, at age 21, Linden became known as the Millionaire Militant. It was late in the 1991-92 season and the NHL Player Association was fed up trying to negotiate a new collective bargain agreement with the league. Executive director Bob Goodenow called a strike to back the players' demands. Linden had assumed the role of Canuck rep the previous summer when Garth Butcher and Tom Kurvers, recent holders of the post, were traded. He was already the captain so it seemed a natural extension of his duties. "There I was," Linden explained to Sun hockey writer Iain MacIntyre. "We had to have someone to represent our guys. All the fingers kind of pointed at me." Linden was caught in a hurricane. As Canuck spokesman, he did much of the talking and the public didn't like his words. A Vancouver Sun headline dubbed him the Millionaire Militant. For the first time in his young life, he was a bad guy. "I'm just the spokesman and I guess, at times, I wish I wasn't," Linden said. "If you ask any one of our players, they're going to say the same thing I would. It's just I'm the one who has to come out and say it. It's hard that the fans feel that way . . . "Believe me, I go to bed praying this thing will be resolved, not for the players, not for management but for the fans. This is easily the worst time in my life." The '92 strike lasted just 10 days. A dozen years later, Linden would experience far worse times as president of the NHLPA.

Linden moment #4 - Stanley Cup final, June 14, 1994

In his third full season as team captain, Trevor Linden came within a Nathan LaFayette goalpost of possibly leading the Canucks to their first Stanley Cup triumph. The Canucks were a seventh-place club entering the 1994 playoffs but shocked Calgary in the first round when Pavel Bure scored in double overtime in Game 7. They then took out both the Dallas Stars and the Toronto Maple Leafs in five. Their opponents in the final were the star-studded New York Rangers, who grabbed a 3-1 series lead before the Canucks rebounded with stunning 6-3 and 4-1 victories, setting up a showdown seventh game June 14 at Madison Square Garden. The Rangers scored twice in the opening period on Kirk McLean and Linden replied shorthanded in the second. Mark Messier made it 3-1 Rangers before the second was out. Linden again brought the Canucks to within one with a power-play goal at 4:50 of the third. Alas, there was no further response from the Canucks, although LaFayette came close in the dying minutes. At the final buzzer, Linden, his nose broken, his face gaunt, his body depleted, slumped on one knee with his arms folded across his chest. It was the greatest performance of his career and it still wasn't enough. "Most of us have a pretty empty feeling right now," said a dejected Linden. "When you have your mind set on something and you don't get it, it's tough, Everyone is proud of one another and the way we battled hard." Linden would never again appear in a Stanley Cup final.

Trevor #5 - Ironman streak over

Before Brendan Morrison passed him two seasons ago, Trevor Linden was the Vancouver Canucks' Ironman, the title given to the player going the longest without injury. From 1990-96, Linden suited up for every single game on the Canucks' schedule. If he had a minor injury, he played through it. If he had the flu, it didn't bring him down. But 24 games into the 1996-97 campaign — on Dec. 1, 1996 — he collided with Philadelphia's John LeClair and tore the medial collateral ligament in his left knee. It was his 482nd consecutive game and it would be his last for a while. "When you go as long as I did without being hurt, you think you're never going to get hurt," Linden said. "It never enters your mind. You just suit up every night and play the game." Linden and LeClair didn't see one another in the blindside neutral zone collision. Linden immediately knew the injury was significant and that his ironman streak was over. "I went right to the bench and right to the room and said: 'I hurt my knee, it's bad,'" he recalled. "I just got hit from the side. My knee moved and my leg didn't." Canuck coach Tom Renney tried to put a brave face on the situation. "We can't dwell on it," said Renney, in his first season as Canuck coach. "If we just throw up our arms and say 'what do we do now?' we may as well not play. It allows someone else an opportunity to play. They're not Trevor Linden but that's fine." Linden missed two months and 24 games with the injury. The Canucks missed the playoffs by four points.

Linden moment #6 - Gives the 'C' to Mark Messier

After six full seasons as Canuck captain, Trevor Linden made the expected move by handing his 'C' over to newly signed Mark Messier on Oct. 3, 1997. The transition occurred in Tokyo, where the Canucks opened their '97-98 campaign against the Anaheim Mighty Ducks. Messier's ascension to captain seemed inevitable once the ink dried on his three-year, $20-million deal. At that point in his career, he was still considered one of hockey's greatest leaders and it was thought he could galvanize a talented Canuck group that had both Pavel Bure and Alex Mogilny as well as Linden, Markus Naslund, Martin Gelinas, Jyrki Lumme, Kirk McLean and rookie defenceman Mattias Ohlund. Linden claimed the decision to hand over the 'C' was his and his alone. "I didn't know what I was going to do and I didn't want to make a quick decision," Linden explained. "I wanted to see how it played out. You know, the day I was driving from Whistler to go to the [Messier signing] announcement I turned on the radio in my car and the first thing I heard was 'would Messier be captain?' "I was monitoring the situation and was waiting to see what felt right. And it just felt right. Now I'll be apprenticing under one of the best leaders in professional sport." Long-time Canuck GM Pat Quinn nodded his approval. "Let's face it, we acquired a player who has an aura of leadership about him," Quinn said of Messier. "Trevor felt it would be better to defer the captaincy to a person of Mark's presence and accomplishments." A month later, Quinn was fired. Four months later, Linden was traded to the New York Islanders.

Linden #7 - Ripped by Keenan

Trevor Linden had always been the golden boy. He was an outstanding prospect as a teenager and won two Memorial Cups with the Medicine Hat Tigers. He was drafted second overall by the Canucks in 1988, had a wonderful 30-goal rookie season, was named captain at age 20 and nearly led his team to the Stanley Cup in 1994. So he was unprepared — would anybody be? — for the vicious verbal assault from new head coach Mike Keenan on Dec. 8, 1997. Keenan had replaced Tom Renney a month earlier and obviously wasn't enamoured with Linden or anything about him. Linden injured his groin just one week into Keenan's reign and returned to the lineup that fateful night in St. Louis. It was also Keenan's first time back in St. Louis after being fired by the Blues the previous season. With the Canucks down 4-1 heading into the third period, Keenan decided to unload on Linden. According to former Sun columnist Gary Mason, Iron Mike was incensed that Linden was commending some of his teammates for their effort to that point. "Shut the bleep up, just shut the bleep up!" Keenan screamed. "Who the bleep are you?" Keenan questioned Linden's pride in a tirade that continued for three or four minutes. Mason wrote that Keenan later apologized, but the damage was done. The relationship between coach and player was beyond repair. It was only a matter of time until Linden was gone. Two of his pals, Kirk McLean and Martin Gelinas, were traded on Jan. 2. The house cleaning in Vancouver was under way. Linden would be next.

Linden #8 - Traded to Islanders

Trevor Linden knew the trade was coming, he just didn't know where or when. He finally found out on Feb. 6, 1998. The first to tell him was equipment manager Pat O'Neill. He then heard it from head coach Mike Keenan moments later. He was off to the New York Islanders for young defenceman Bryan McCabe, promising but moody power forward Todd Bertuzzi and a third-round pick that became Jarkko Ruutu. After 10 years, Trevor Linden was finished as a Canuck. "It's a difficult day," said Linden, 27, at his farewell news conference. "I can't say enough about the time I spent here. The people have been tremendous. On the other hand, I knew something was going to happen. It's a chance for me to start again and move forward. "I have to say things weren't going really well here, the team was struggling and I was as well." At the heart of the trade was the poisonous relationship between Keenan, who became coach in mid-November, and Linden, the former franchise golden boy who had surrendered his captaincy to Keenan favourite Mark Messier. Everyone considered the moving of Linden as inevitable. "I don't know if the word 'inevitable' is correct," responded Keenan. "There was certainly a little bit of controversy that was expounded upon to make it a great deal of controversy by the media. "However, I think it should be noted that Trevor has unfortunately had some injuries this year and didn't quite get on track even before I arrived here." Linden was suffering from a knee injury when he was traded. Fortunately, he recovered in time to join Team Canada at the 1998 Winter Olympics in Nagano.

Linden #9 - The Nagano experience

In a 1997-98 season darkened by the firing of Canuck mentor Pat Quinn and his trade to the New York Islanders, Trevor Linden had something to brighten his spirits: a spot on Team Canada at the Nagano Winter Olympics. Linden was coming off a knee injury and before that a groin problem so this was an opportunity to achieve something before he jetted off to New York to join the Isles. Marc Crawford was the Team Canada coach and the roster was filled with the superstars of the day, including Wayne Gretzky, Patrick Roy, Ray Bourque, Rob Blake, Steve Yzerman, Joe Sakic, Scott Stevens and Al MacInnis. In the semifinal round, Canada faced the Czech Republic. The Czechs were leading 1-0 late in the third before Linden, on an assist from Eric Lindros, tied it with 63 seconds remaining in regulation. There was no scoring in overtime, which led to a shootout won by the Czechs. Team Canada followed that crushing disappointment with a dispirited loss to Finland in the bronze medal game. For Linden, it was just another downer in an already heart-breaking season. His dramatic tying goal in the semifinal was rendered to the footnotes. "It won't be remembered for much now," Linden said a few days later. "But that's natural when you don't win. It was one of those nights that was difficult for everyone. The emotions you go through, you definitely feel the weight of the country on your shoulders. It was definitely hurtful. "We had our sights set on winning and when it didn't happen, it was as down as I've felt in hockey."

Linden #10 - Linden's first game back at GM Place

Six and a half weeks after his stunning trade to the New York Islanders, Trevor Linden was back at GM Place as a visiting player. It was a strange site indeed. Linden's familiar No. 16 was already taken by Ziggy Palffy so he was wearing No. 32 and skating in the 'wrong' end of the rink during the warmup of the March 24, 1998 game. Naturally, he was greeted warmly and the warmth turned into an out-pouring of affection when the Canucks ran a Linden video tribute before the opening faceoff. It was an extremely emotional two minutes highlighting Linden's greatest accomplishments in a Canuck uniform. "I kept thinking when they introduced the Canucks, it was us," Linden later said. "Obviously it brought back a lot of good memories. It was an emotional couple of days. I grew up here. It was a nice piece by a classy organization." The game didn't go well for Linden personally. The Islanders were down 4-1 after 25 minutes and eventually lost 4-3. Linden didn't score and finished a minus-2. Interestingly, Canuck head coach Mike Keenan, who ran Linden out of Vancouver, endorsed the video tribute. "Trevor deserved it," said Iron Mike. "Trevor spent a lot of time here and did a lot of great things for this community. Hockey players are great people. I'm glad he was given support." Longtime Canuck defencemen Jyrki Lumme, and a good friend of Linden's, admitted he was among those touched by the video tribute. "It brought back a lot of memories but life goes on," said Lumme. "Maybe when we're all 45, we can get together and watch the video." Lumme is 42 now and Linden 38. The reunion isn't far off.

Linden #11 - Linden comes home in trade from Caps, Nov. 10, 2001

When he was dealt away by Mike Keenan during the 1997-98 season, Trevor Linden never vowed "I shall return" or anything of the sort. But it happened anyway. On Nov. 10, 2001, Canuck general manager Brian Burke re-acquired Linden from the Washington Capitals along with an exchange of draft picks. The Caps received a first and a third while the Canucks also got a second. Nobody in Vancouver cared about the picks, though, they only cared about having No. 16 back in his true hockey home. "I think it tore a little piece of Trevor's heart out to be traded," said Burke, referring to the Keenan dispatching on Feb. 6, 1998. Since leaving Vancouver, Linden had played for the Islanders, Canadiens and then the Caps without accomplishing much. "To be able to come home and play at home again — that's what I call it — and to be part of an organization that has meant a lot to me is special," Linden said. "I didn't enjoy going back [to Vancouver] as a visiting player. That was a difficult experience. I'm sure I'll enjoy this a lot more. It should be fun." Linden's first game in his return was on the road in Minnesota and, although he didn't register a point, his presence helped propel the Canucks to a resounding 5-0 win over the Wild. Vancouver won its next two as well and went on to a 36-22-6 record with Linden in the lineup. He scored 12 times and added 22 assists playing behind new star players Canucks Markus Naslund, Todd Bertuzzi and Brendan Morrison. He was back.

Linden #12 - Linden passes Smyl to become to top goal scorer in Canuck history, Nov.25, 2002

Two hundred and sixty-two. It was a number that stood in the Vancouver Canuck record book for more than a decade. Two-sixty-two. That's how many goals Stan Smyl scored in a Canuck uniform before he hung them up in 1991. Pavel Bure made it to 254 and Tony Tanti reached 250. Then, finally, Trevor Linden broke the franchise mark when he scored No. 263 against Minnesota Wild netminder Manny Fernandez on Nov. 25, 2002. Fittingly, it wasn't a meaningless tally in an insignificant game. Instead, it was the winner in a 2-1 victory over the Wild. The goal, at 5:58 of the third period, came shorthanded on a breakaway pass from Sami Salo. Linden deked to the backhand. The victory was the Canucks' seventh straight in a run that would see them win a franchise record 10 in a row. Without the Linden goal, the streak might never have happened. "We were killing a penalty, it was anybody's game," Linden said in describing his historic marker. "I thought about going five-hol but, as I got close, it looked like he was going to poke-check me. I don't know if it's a good idea to [plan a breakaway]. Fifteenth season. It doesn't seem like that long." It was indeed Linden's 15th NHL season but only his 12th in a Canuck uniform. Linden also knew he likely wouldn't hold the record forever. He was right. Markus Naslund was in the midst of a 48-goal campaign that year and was charging hard. The Canuck record book now reads: Naslund 346, Linden 318, Smyl 262.

Linden #13 - Linden passes Smyl points mark on night of infamy, March 8, 2004

It was only a matter of time until Trevor Linden passed Stan Smyl's all-time points mark but the accomplishment was lost on a night of infamy in Vancouver. On March 8, 2004, Linden assisted on a pair of Brad May second-period goals to move past Smyl's franchise record 673 points. The assists, and the record, became an afterthought when Todd Bertuzzi attacked Avalanche forward Steve Moore in the third period of the 9-2 loss. Moore suffered career-ending injuries in the game and has since launched a $38 million suit. Bertuzzi was suspended from the NHL for the remainder of the season and playoffs — and sat for a total of 17 months when NHL players were locked out the following September. He also pled guilty to assault. Linden, who was president of the National Hockey League Players Association at the time, had no reason to rejoice in breaking Smyl's record. "The only thing I'm going to say is I hope Steve Moore is okay," Linden said following the debacle. "It was a pretty disappointing game from the get-go. I appreciate the response from the fans [for the record] but the most important thing was to get the win and we didn't do that." The entire night was surreal. Colorado led 5-0 after the first period in what was supposed to be a showdown for first place in the Northwest Division. Dan Cloutier was beaten four times on 10 shots and was pulled at 15:31. Moore fought, and beat, Matt Cooke at 6:36 of the first. On March 8, 2004, Linden's record was a mere footnote.

Linden #14 - NHL lockout

Trevor Linden always liked being involved. He was a NHL Players Association rep at age 21 and rose within the union ranks to become president by 1998. He was still in that position when league owners locked out their players on Sept. 15 2004 and was a central figure throughout the shutdown that cancelled the entire 2004-05 campaign. NHL commissioner Gary Bettman was determined to negotiate a new collective bargaining agreement containing cost certainty, which was a salary cap by any other name. Linden and NHLPA executive director Bob Goodenow were completely opposed and the lockout was on. There were various attempts along the way to find a solution. The players proposed a 24 per cent salary rollback — but no salary cap — on Dec. 9, 2004. The owners rejected it. The league came back in February with its own proposal which, of course, included a salary cap. The players rejected that. Bettman finally cancelled the season on Feb. 16, 2005, and the sense of urgency was gone. By June, the players decided they had had their fill of living without NHL paycheques and relented on the cap issue. Negotiations proceeded at a feverish pace — and Linden was involved every step along the way — and a new agreement was finally reached on July 13, 2005. Linden was exhausted when it was over and the subject of much second-guessing. He helped engineer the ouster of Goodenow and the hiring of Ted Saskin, whose reign as executive director was brief and ended in scandal. "You're in a situation where you're really trying to do the right thing for a collective group with 700 different interests and 700 different situations," Linden explained. "You put a lot of thought into what is the right direction. So it definitely weighed on me."

Linden #15 - His last game, April 5, 2008

It was probably the worst kept secret in hockey when Trevor Linden skated out for the Canucks' final game of the 2007-08 season. It was going to be his final game, too. He was going to retire. Everybody knew it. And with the Canucks officially eliminated from the playoffs, there wasn't going to be any other kind of last hurrah. So the fans at GM Place saluted Linden as he came out for his first shift against the Calgary Flames and the salutes continued for the entire April 5 night. Coach Alain Vigneault kept putting Linden back on the ice late in the third period, giving him the opportunity to perhaps score one last goal. It didn't happen and the Canucks were trounced 7-1 by the Flames. When the final horn sounded, the Flames didn't leave the ice and, led by captain Jarome Iginla, shook Linden's hand one by one. Hockey Night In Canada named Linden the first star — after a 7-1 loss! — so he could take a final curtain call. The Canucks also had their season-ending 'sweater off your back' promotion that evening and Linden was again saluted wildly by the fans who refused to leave. Linden then did a lap by himself and the salutes went on and on in an extremely emotional goodbye to Vancouver's favourite hockey son. "I'm flattered," Linden said when it was finally over. "I feel extremely fortunate, blessed, the way things have gone. I'm overwhelmed. Sometimes I almost feel kind of like: who deserves this? I can't begin to say the effect it had on me. "I'm a guy from Medicine Hat who played a game he loved and to get that kind of response was really amazing." It really was.

Linden moment 16 - No. 16 announces his retirement, June 11, 2008

Trevor Linden was drafted second overall by the Canucks on June 11, 1988 so it seemed like the perfect time to announce his retirement on June 11, 2008. Twenty years to the day. Twenty years, come and gone. Twenty years but a lifetime of memories. "I know the time is right but there is sadness," Linden said at his farewell press conference. "Where did the 20 years go? I will miss the game, all the people involved in the game and definitely the buzz on game day." Linden was not prepared that day to take a job in hockey — and still hasn't — although most who know him are convinced he would be a natural at any level of an organization. He could manage, he could scout or he could coach. But on his retirement day, he talked only of stepping away for a while to smell the coffee and roses. Or both. "It's not every day you get to go from an old hockey player to a young man, so that's a good thing," said Linden, 38. "There are two tracks you can go. You can stay in the game, a game that you love — and it's all I've ever known. But there's also a part of me that says maybe there's something else out there that I have a passion for and that I would enjoy doing. It's going to take some time to figure out. "To get perspective on anything, you need to kind of distance yourself a little bit. For me, that might be the best thing. Time will kind of sort things out and where my heart lies and what direction I see my future going." For one last night, Dec. 17, his heart will lie at GM Place.

 
 
 
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Trevor Linden celebrating after scoring a goal against the Dallas Stars in the third period during game four of the 2007 NHL Western Conference quarterfinals on April 17, 2007 in Dallas, Texas.
 

Trevor Linden celebrating after scoring a goal against the Dallas Stars in the third period during game four of the 2007 NHL Western Conference quarterfinals on April 17, 2007 in Dallas, Texas.

Photograph by: Ronald Martinez/Getty Images, Ronald Martinez/Getty Images

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

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