By Josh Plummer
Good luck symbols come in many different forms. Some people choose the traditional rabbit's foot or four leaf clover, while others might rely on a piece of family jewelry or even an old tattered t-shirt to bring a soothing sense of relief and assurance nothing will go wrong each day.
As a Private in the Canadian Forces, Tyler Hook knows the importance of good luck symbols; perhaps more than anyone.
Tyler and his good luck have safely returned from a four month tour of duty in the sandy hills of Afghanistan as a member of the 1st Battalion Princess Patricia's Canadian Light Infantry (PPCLI) regiment - one of the most decorated regiments in the Canadian Forces.
During their service, Tyler and his fellow Patricia's were confronted with insurgent sniper fire, ground shaking explosions and almost unbearable desert-like temperatures.
"The heat was overwhelming," said Tyler. "It was like putting on your warmest clothing and sitting in front of a scorching hot oven. And if you were thirsty, you could always take a drink of lukewarm water."
The months in unfamiliar Afghanistan were difficult to endure, especially when thoughts of home entered Tyler's mind like an oasis in the distance. But if a soldier can't be home, the next best thing they can do is take home with them, and that's exactly what Tyler did.
McFarlane Toys was established in 1994, and it's doubtful their popular toys were dubbed "action figures" to prepare them for overseas duty, but that didn't stop Tyler from bringing his Trevor Linden figurine to Afghanistan for good luck.
The six-inch tall, intricately detailed toy saw more action in four months than most good luck symbols see in a lifetime.
If it could speak, it would tell stories of staring down the sights of an assault rifle, riding in the back of a light armor vehicle or hiking through dangerous terrain while bombs exploded in the distance.
"He was with me for everything," said Tyler. "I would cram him in my pack or my vest while I did night patrols or while we dug trenches. He was even with me during some pretty intense firefights."
Tyler likes to tell the story of meeting Afghani soldiers and trying to bridge the language barrier by teaching them popular English words and phrases. One of his favorite lessons was "Linden Rules."
Born in Rossland, B.C., Tyler has been a Canucks and Trevor Linden fan as long as he can remember. His Dad was always a Blackhawks supporter, but as soon as Tyler was old enough to pick his own favorites, it was the tall, skinny kid from Medicine Hat, AB and the Canucks who held his allegiances.
"I've been a Canucks fan forever," said Tyler. "I've got so many great Canucks memories and when Trevor came on the team in '88, I always admired his class and leadership."
Tyler could always be seen wearing his civilian Canucks clothing during his down time in Afghanistan and although he was thousands of miles away, he always stayed on top of team news.
"He would get 30 minutes of phone call time from Afghanistan and sometimes the whole conversation was about hockey," said his wife Krista. "The first few minutes were always about family, but the Canucks were always next."
Upon his return home, the Canucks were still the topic of conversation and were even the topic of some lengthy emails.
While stationed in Edmonton, AB, Tyler was browsing the Canucks website and saw a link asking fans to send photos describing why they're supporters of the team. In a matter of minutes, he composed an email that would have stretched the storage capacity of even the largest email inbox.
His email told the story and featured inspiring pictures of how he carried his Trevor Linden good luck symbol during some precarious moments in Afghanistan.
"I wish the Canucks good luck this year with a special shout out to Trevor (thanks for the luck he gave me)," wrote Tyler. "I will be watching."
The Canucks and Linden were so moved by his email, they invited the couple to Vancouver so they could attend a practice and home opening game against the San Jose Sharks on October 13th.
The pair eagerly flew to Vancouver and were warmly greeted at GM Place, presented with a signed Trevor Linden lithograph, then brought to ice level to watch the Canucks prepare for their evening match-up with the Sharks.
"This is unbelievable," beemed Tyler. "I thought the Canucks would maybe put my picture on the website or something, but this has been awesome."
Much like his off days in Afghanistan, Tyler wore his Linden retro jersey, Canucks cap and even took the good luck Linden action figure out of his pack to place on the GM Place seat beside him. It was still covered with Afghanistan sand.
The lucky couple watched the home opener from the VIP press box later that night, but the best part of their day was after the morning practice when they met the real-life, full-size Trevor Linden.
Linden made his way through a crowd of fans to spend a few moments with Tyler and marvel at the pictures in his email. He even signed the back of the retro jersey and made Tyler feel like the luckiest guy in the world.
"It was awesome to meet Trevor," said Tyler. "It's not everyday you meet your sports icon and it's even better when he turns out to be everything you thought he would be."
"We want to thank the Canucks for everything they've done and for making our dream come true."
Tyler and Krista returned home to Edmonton with the Linden action figure in tow - and when they reflected on their trip to Vancouver, they had the soothing sense of relief and assurance that everything went perfect that day.
Sometimes all a person needs is a little good luck.