"You don't know this, but Trevor Linden had cracked ribs and torn rib cartilage for the last four games of the 1994 Stanley Cup Final," Cliff Ronning said. "You can't imagine what it's like to hear your captain, in a room down the hall, screaming at the top of his lungs as they injected the needle into his rib cage. Knowing him, he probably thought we couldn't hear. He would then walk into our dressing room like nothing had happened. That was inspirational."
Ronning was remembering Linden dropping his right shoulder into Brian Leetch, pushing the defenseman to the side and scoring on Mike Richter to make the score 2-1 Rangers in Game 7 of the Final. Linden couldn't will his team to victory that night, despite his two goals, in the deciding 3-2 loss.
"I broke my hand in that game," Ronning recalled. "But how do I say I can't play when there's a guy who has played four games with broken ribs and torn cartilage and he's dropping his shoulder into guys to make plays?
"There's a famous picture of Trevor and goalie Kirk McLean standing in exhaustion and it exemplifies what everyone on our team gave that day. It was a sad day because we lost, but it was a great day in the sense of what we had accomplished. We were not as talented a team, but how close we came! And, how close we became as friends, to this day."
Ronning said the famous picture of Linden and goalie Kirk McLean, standing together in Game 7 in total exhaustion, captures the moment. The Canucks had beaten the Calgary Flames in seven games, the last three in overtime, before five-game series victories over the Dallas Stars and Toronto Maple Leafs. Linden was Vancouver's second-leading scorer in the playoffs, behind his right winger Pavel Bure, with 12 goals and 13 assists. Down 3-1 in the Final, the Canucks rallied to win Games 5 and 6.
At one point in Game 6 in Vancouver, Linden crawled on the ice to get to his bench, he was in so much pain.
"Trevor and Kirk and the exhaustion in their faces exemplifies what everyone on our team gave that day," Ronning said.
"Pat Quinn was inspirational to the younger players and put us in situations that we'd be accountable to each other. That's where Trevor fit in. He showed us that his accountability as a player was to the team, not to Trevor. By playing on the defensive side of the puck and taking hits to make plays, to staying in the night before a big game, Trevor set the disciplinary tone by himself. That's why we saw him as a great leader.
"Quinn slowly groomed our team as he went along and he needed a captain who shared his philosophy of hard work," Ronning said. "Trevor never took a shift off. He sacrificed his body to block shots and did a lot of little things that some scorers won't do. That's what made him an excellent captain."
Ronning grew up in suburban Vancouver, in Burnaby, and was overjoyed to be traded from the St. Blues to the Canucks in 1991. He had a lot riding on winning the 1994 Stanley Cup but even more in seeing his hometown take the Canucks to their heart. He knows the role Linden played in making that happen.
"He's been great for this city from the day he got here until he played his last game," Ronning said. "It's not just what he did on the ice. He did so much for the community. I can feel that connection with the fans and you don't know how many sick kids he visited in hospitals. He brought this community together and I've always thought it would be interesting if he ran for mayor."
The NHL honored Linden in 1997 as the 10th recipient of the King Clancy Memorial Trophy.
"Certain people have leadership skills in their makeup and it was abundantly evident in Trevor Linden," said Quinn, who named Linden team captain at age 21. "He had shown it as a young player and we were a team changing our ethic. We hadn't been a winning organization. He seemed the right guy to put in there to be our leader and captain.
"He was a high-level performer who brought his level up in the big games. He didn't make mistakes and he scored important goals. Even if he wasn't a prolific scorer, he was that good, solid, two-way player that coaches love to have in the lineup.
"Linden was big in that Game 7 and the whole series," Quinn continued. "There's no possible way to give more than he did. He led by example and was a monster in the final game. Woulda, coulda, shoulda, but Vancouver should have won that series. We were better in four of the seven games."