On Wednesday evening, the professional athlete who has had the most powerful impact on the city of Vancouver will be honoured. The Canucks will raise Trevor Linden’s number 16, and pay respect to a player who is more than deserving. It should be noted that I am well aware that professional hockey players are professional entertainers, not automatic role models or legends. Additionally, I never was, am not now, nor will I be a Canuck fan. However, Trevor Linden made me respect the Canuck franchise. Because of Linden I now wish the Canucks well, even if I am not a fan. I am a Trevor Linden fan.
It is inexplicable the connection that Linden has with Vancouver. I remember him joining that Canucks when I was in my youth, they were in yellow, and my gosh were they a bad hockey club. The Collesium was known as the mausoleum. Yet, an 18 year old began to change all that, and a city got behind him. He seemed to personify the classic Canadian hockey work ethic, and for Vancouver hockey fans it was a long time coming. It is apparent that every other Canadian professional team had their legend, or legends prior to 1988. Vancouver had to wait, but in the end they got all and more. Trevor has been, and will be, an example of exemplary sportsmanship, leadership, respect, responsibility, and caring. Yes, I am aware there are thousands of people that live up to these high standards in Vancover every day. But, I am also aware as a society and community we still look to athletes as leaders, and Linden was a true leader, off the ice even more so than on it. He lead by placing the priorities first. A whole hard shift rather than one flashy move. Representing all the players before himself. Taking the time to work with numerous charities rather than jet away. Meeting with kids after a game rather than heading to the Roxy. Doing all the little things that create balance even when the big things go off kilter. That is Trevor.
I was there the night he became the Canuck’s all-time points leader (latter eclipsed by Naslund). It was an assist. The arena would not go quiet. I remember the linesman pretending to fix a hole in the ice so he could delay the puck drop. I remember Sakic, the hometown boy, congratulating him, and I remember the infamy of that night being stolen from him by a then team-mate’s inexcusable actions. Linden has never once publicly noted how the other incident completely overshadowed what he achieved that night. Simply, he is class.
One is hard pressed to find a play of his generation that has meant more to the city he played in, and not just from a hockey standpoint. Linden is a leader in the community. When he speaks, people listen, where he goes, they follow. How did this happen? Trevor never got a Stanley Cup, never got an Olympic Gold, never got a World Cup, and was once chased from the city he loved. He fell short of all the top achievements in his sport, and wrongly branded an outsider for a period. Yet, he came back, always put the team first, and never once lamented falling short of the huge milestones in hockey. We all watched this happen. We saw how a hard working teenager grew up under our gaze, giving his all to never quite reach the pinnacle of his sport, and yet never became bitter or corrupted. Instead he only grew more noble and responsible. Perhaps we see him as a leader, because we see in him what we hope for ourselves in this regard, and hope for our children. He achieved this balance of playing the game he loved at a high level, but keeping it all in perspective, regardless of the outcome. He became bigger than the sport, because he realized it wasn’t about him being big, it was about being a better person. He kept it balanced.