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A day with Linden

by Derek Jory / Vancouver Canucks
No.

Last Thursday Vancouver Canucks president and former player Trevor Linden granted CanucksTV access to every avenue of his life; from sun up to sun down cameraman Rory McGarry and myself followed Linden for more than 15 hours and there’s one word the 44-year-old never said.

No.

As you’ll discover in this rundown of the day, Linden is genuine, confident, organized and positive – and not just because he’s being paid to be as the face of a changing Canucks landscape.

He multi-tasks like an octopus, oozes charisma and possesses exceptional communication skills.

In short, Linden is talking the talk and walking the walk less than nine months into his new role.

6:10 a.m. PST – We meet Linden at the gym, his gym. This isn’t only his gym because his face is everywhere, it’s his because of everyone in that morning, Linden is working the hardest. Personal trainer Neil, whom he works with twice a week, puts him through the paces; the 60-minute session features planks, push-ups, sit-ups, machines and free-weights – name a muscle and they worked on it.

7:19 a.m. – The focused workout ends with Linden out of breath, but after a sip of water, he regains himself. “Call the tailor, I need a bigger shirt,” Linden laughs, flexing his guns.

7:30 a.m. – As we ride to Linden’s house in his black Denali, he discusses his need to workout, whether it be in the gym (twice a week), swimming (once a week) running and riding (three times a week) or hitting the slopes (whenever he can squeeze it in). A Snowy Creek parking pass on his dash and an issue of Whistler Magazine in the pocket of the passenger’s seat are evidence of his love for the outdoors, especially when it’s blanketed with snow.

7:42 a.m. – A quick stop at Casa Linden has we post up in the kitchen while he does a radio interview with CBC’s Rick Cluff before showering. His oceanfront Point Grey home, which he bought in 2002, is a 3,500-square-foot contemporary 1960’s style home with an ever changing view of English Bay/Burrard Inlet. It’s immaculately clean, polished even, and not because of our visit. Cleanliness is next to Godliness, some say; I trip over pizza boxes on the norm, so I wouldn’t know.

7:48 a.m. – We send out an @VanCanucks tweet of Linden on the phone with Cluff, while sipping an espresso. The first response is observant and hilarious.

8:16 a.m. – Back in the Denali, cruising to Rogers Arena. It’s maybe a 12-minute drive, so that’s 720 seconds of work Linden can get done. First he calls Canucks chief amateur scout Ron Delorme, whom he passes condolences to for a passing in the family before discussing a few prospects. The call lasts five minutes leaving time for another call and just like that his cell rings and it’s Dan Cloutier, goalie consultant with the Canucks. Amateur prospects is again the topic and the call lasts beyond the drive and into the walk into his office.

8:31 a.m. – Linden gives us a quick tour of his office, which includes photos of Pat Quinn (“he had a profound impact on my life”), Jim Robson (“I’ve always meant to ask him about those pants”), Orland Kurtenbach (“He was one of the best, just a tough, gritty player”) and Stan Smyl (“He continues to be a mentor to me to this day”). The only other photo on the wall is of Eddy Merckx, who many consider the greatest pro-cyclist ever. Linden is friends with his son Axel and the personally autographed photo was a gift. You might assume the bicycle sitting on a shelf to the left is Merckx’s, but it’s his father-in-laws. Linden had the old bike restored as a gift and his father-in-law told him he might as well put it up in his office to show it off.

8:32 a.m. – The final thing Linden points out, other than a few personal photos beside his computer of memories he cherishes, is a Calgary Flames puck. Why is there a Calgary Flames puck in the office of the president of the Vancouver Canucks? “Our trainers gave it to me after our first win of the season,” he smirks.

8:54 a.m. – Time to make the rounds. Linden tours the rink and checks in with almost everyone on the hockey operations side of things before practice. First up is head athletic trainer Mike Burnstein, who informs him Dan Hamhuis will skate with the Canucks for the first time, as will Radim Vrbata who missed last game due to sickness. Brad Richardson’s status is still up in the air, but nothing was broken after he blocked a shot last game, it’s just a deep bone bruise.

9:00 a.m. – In the player lounge, Linden chats with Alex Burrows, Eddie Lack, Daniel Sedin, Zack Kassian and Richardson; no hockey talk, they discuss the upcoming NFL playoffs as highlights of matchups flash on the screen. The group eats breakfast together.

9:17 a.m. – Linden is pulled aside by TC Carling, VP of hockey administration, to screen the Roberto Luongo tribute video that will air in-arena that night. Linden loves it, there’s even a shot of him hugging Roberto. Single tear.

10:00 a.m. – Headed back to his desk, Linden pops his head into GM Jim Benning’s office to say good morning. Linden is pleasantly surprised to see a photoshoot taking place by the Canucks creative department with Benning front and centre. “Jim’s always doing this kind of stuff,” he laughs. “Once or twice a week with the photoshoots!” Linden is kidding, Benning is in pain.

10:03 a.m. – When Linden isn’t doing what Linden does, he’s on Rinknet, a hockey player management and scouting technology system that all the Canucks scouts have access to and input to after amateur game they watch. He demonstrates the scouting reports galore; Linden spends much of his free time on here, while the rest of us are on Facebook. Awe, some girl from high school I talked to twice back in the day just got a cute puppy!! LIKE!

11:27 a.m. – After watching morning skate with Benning in the stands, Linden is back in his office, again with Benning, and they’re joined by John Weisbrod, VP of player personnel, and Joan Stobbs, executive assistant and team services administrator. The topic is upcoming scouting trips for Linden and Benning; Linden is visiting Sarnia, Sherbrook, Chicoutimi, Shawinigan, Niagara, Saginaw, Peterborough and Sault Ste. Marie and Benning is hitting up Halifax and Gatineau, both to scout amateur players for the upcoming NHL draft, players who have “spurred divergent discussion” amongst the scouts. No assignment too big, no assignment too small. Both president and GM want to personally see these prospects perform so they can weigh-in on their future as Vancouver Canucks.

12:52 p.m. – Lunch. After the players are finished eating in the lounge, management settles in. Dining on spaghetti, chicken breast, rice and vegetables, Linden listens as Benning, Laurence Gilman, Weisbrod and Doug Lidster discuss their children and upcoming university decisions. Linden and wife Cristina do not have any children, although the Canucks could be considered his children, in a sense.

1:15 p.m. – A quick Twitter Q&A with Linden in the player’s lounge reveals the following: his favourite part of being president is the opportunity to win and Canucks fans, his most memorable Roberto Luongo moment was his 72 saves against the Dallas Stars, his go-to biking route in the lower mainland is Kitsilano to Lions Bay to the top of Cypress mountain and home, he would have loved to have played with Jean Beliveau, loves country music, has never admired his retired No. 16 in the rafters at Rogers Arena and Suits is his go-to TV show – not that he ever has time to watch TV.

1:30 p.m. – “Take a break guys. I’ll meet you back at my office at 4 p.m., I’ve got some emails and whatnot to go through, it won’t make for very exciting TV.” Yes, sir.

4:00 p.m. – As we rejoin Linden he’s engrossed in a World Junior Championship game from a week earlier between Czech Republic and Switzerland. “The scouting never ends.” Neither do the meetings. This time it’s Chris Brumwell, VP of communications and community partnerships, who needs a few minutes from Linden to discuss the team’s upcoming Dice & Ice event, the Canucks signature charitable event in support of the Canucks for Kids Fund. The details of their meeting are hush-hush, but I can tell you the Canucks rookies are in for a smashing good time this year.

4:52 p.m. – Dinner. Sushi, pasta salad, fruits, vegetables and a cheese plate. Linden doesn’t take anything from the cheese plate because “it sucks you in and next thing you know, you’ve eaten all of it.” He’s actually mentioned not having it as part of the menu anymore, to which he was met with laughter. Cheese is good. Boston is playing New Jersey on the TV behind Linden in the executive boardroom as he eats and reviews game notes for the upcoming battle with the Florida Panthers. It’s some guy named Roberto Luongo’s first game back in Vancouver since being traded last season.

5:00 p.m. – Linden leaves his meal to meet season ticket member Gordon Hunt and family at Gate 16. Nothing big, just a quick hello and a few photos.

5:15 p.m. – The Canucks have been offering town hall meetings prior to home games for season ticket members and there’s one taking place shortly. Linden is joined by Benning, both microphones in hand, to address fans, take questions and make the hockey operations team accessible. One question, from a young Canucks fan, raises eyebrows. It’s about Ben Hutton and when and if the team will sign him. Benning answered Hutton is an NCAA player, so once he finishes school, the team will discuss what needs discussing with the 21-year-old.

5:52 p.m. – Back in the boardroom, Benning and Linden share a laugh about the Hutton question. “I didn’t expect that question from that young man,” chuckles Benning. “I was caught off guard – I’m glad you had the answer handy,” responds Linden.

6:31 p.m. – The Canucks hit the ice for warm-up and no the home fans aren’t booing, they’re Luuing as Luongo and the Panthers take to the ice as well. Linden squeezes in a visit with Canucks clients, including team doctors.

7:08 p.m. – Puck drop. Linden sits with TC Carling in one of two executive boxes high above the ice at Rogers Arena. He’s quiet when he watches; not overly excited when the Canucks jump out to a 1-0 lead, not overly disappointed when the Panthers tie the game.

7:44 p.m. – 1st intermission visit to suite 208 where Linden visits fans who bought the suite at a live auction at the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation’s Rockin’ For Research Gala. He poses for 17 photos and signs 14 autographs.

7:58 pm. – 2nd period. Panthers score twice. No one in the building is impressed, including Linden.

8:31 p.m. – 2nd intermission visit to the Rogers Studio Lounge where Fishing for Kids participants are mingling. More photos, more autographs.

8:40 p.m. – 3rd period. Canucks outplay the Panthers, but can’t beat Luongo. Of course. Vancouver loses to Florida 3-1.

9:30 p.m. – Linden is back downstairs visiting with Mike Burnstein. Linden asks if more Canucks are feeling under the weather than he knows about, he’s concerned about the team “looking lethargic” on this night. Burnstein said no.

9:39 p.m. – Back in his office, Linden is slumped in his chair. He’s tired, but more than that, he’s defeated. “The losses don’t get any easier just because I’m not on the ice anymore. And if I feel this way, I know the players feel worse. You’ve just got to lick your wounds and the sun will come up tomorrow.” Before the sun is up, Linden will have gone for a run to get his sweat on. He’s training for life, he says.

10:16 p.m. – Three become two when Linden departs Rory and I with a wave, driving out of the arena parkade.

What a day. And through it all, Linden didn’t say ‘no’ once.

He’s a yes man, whatever it takes to get the job done.

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