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A Night to Remember

by Jeff Paterson / Vancouver Canucks
 In a perfect world, it would have taken place on the ‘sixteenth’ of December.

But since the Vancouver Canucks don’t play that night, the following night will serve just fine to honour the remarkable career of Trevor Linden. It’s that night -- prior to the Canucks December 17th game against the Edmonton Oilers -- that the hockey club will pay the ultimate tribute to the most popular player in team history by taking Linden’s familiar #16 out of service and raising it to the rafters of General Motors Place.

Although Stan Smyl’s #12, the only number currently retired by the hockey club, proudly hangs high above the ice surface at The Garage, Linden will become the first Canuck to actually have his number retired at GM Place.

The Canucks honoured the Steamer in a pregame ceremony at Pacific Coliseum on November 3, 1991 and then transferred Smyl’s banner when the hockey team moved into its new downtown digs to open the 1995-96 hockey season.

Jeff Paterson is a Team 1040 broadcaster and a regular contributor to the Georgia Straight.

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Linden, who announced his retirement in June, played his final National Hockey League game on April 5th against the Calgary Flames.

In many ways, it’s fitting that his jersey will be retired prior to a game against another fierce Northwest Division rival and a team from the Medicine Hat native’s home province.

Throughout his 19-year NHL career, Linden scored more goals (37), assists (47) and points (84) against Edmonton than he did against any other team. During that time, he played 102 games against the Oilers, which was second-only to the 103 he suited up for against Calgary.

Linden picked up the first of his 492 NHL assists against the Oilers on October 12, 1988 and scored the final road goal of his career in Edmonton on March 20th earlier this year. In between, he recorded two of his five NHL hattricks against Edmonton including a career-best three goal, three assist performance in a 7-4 victory over the Oilers on December 20, 1990.

By honouring Linden on December 17th, his jersey-raising will come during the week of the 18th anniversary of that feat – only Patrik Sundstrom recorded more points as a Canuck in a single game than Linden did that night.

Almost remarkably, for all the personal triumphs and successes Trevor Linden enjoyed against the Oilers, he only faced them once in the post-season – the 1992 Smythe Division Final. Trevor Linden dressed for 118 NHL playoff games as a member of the Canucks, yet only six of them were against Edmonton.

Still having the Oilers in town for Trevor Linden’s big night is bound to bring back many terrific memories and allow him to recall many career highlights.

And unlike the final night of his career when Linden was saluted on several occasions by the sell-out crowd at GM Place and all he could do was offer a wave in return, on December 17th he’ll have the opportunity to address the packed house and the thousands more tuning in on television, radio and the internet and thank them all personally.

It’s bound to be one of the great nights of the season and likely one of the most-memorable in the history of the hockey club.

Per-Olav Brassar, Brad Gassoff, Dan Hodgson, Mark Kirton, Stu Kulak, Don Tannahill, Ted Taylor, Barry Wilcox and Jim Wiley may have all worn #16 at some point during their careers as Canucks. But as of December 17th, the number officially belongs to Trevor Linden for the rest of time.

And that’s the exactly the way it should be.
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