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You Haven't Seen Anything Yet

by Jeff Paterson / Vancouver Canucks
How do you measure all that Trevor Linden meant to the Vancouver Canucks over his distinguished 20-year National Hockey League career?

Oh sure, the record 1140 games played in Canuck colours and the 318 goals he scored for the franchise are certainly impressive numbers. But they hardly define the 38-year-old. And really they are just a small part of who Trevor Linden was as a hockey player and, more importantly, is as a human being.

Considering all of the good Linden has done for the Canucks on the ice over the years – and there has been plenty of it – his greatest legacy will be what he meant to this city and its fans away from the rink. Oh sure, he played with heart and passion and determination and wanted with all his might to bring a Stanley Cup to this city. And he came as close as is humanly possible in that memorable spring of 1994.

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

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But as Linden embarks on the rest of his life, he’ll be remembered just as much – if not more so -- for his compassion, his caring, his devotion and his dedication to a city that adopted him as an 18-year-old straight off the farm in Medicine Hat.

Two decades later, he retires as the most-popular figure in the history of Vancouver sports. Linden would likely dispute that notion humbly pointing instead to all that Stan Smyl and Lui Passaglia and Bob Lenarduzzi had accomplished before him. But ask around, and you’ll find that Trevor Linden has raised the bar when it comes to capturing the hearts of a city.

A smile, an autograph, a handshake, a hospital visit. With some of the simplest gestures, Linden was able to reach out and brighten the day of those around him. A hockey hero to many, he never seemed to embrace the celebrity status that came with the profession. He preferred, it seemed, to remain just a simple guy with a cool job who knew he was in a position to do great things when he was playing and even greater things when he wasn’t.

It seems so fitting that Trevor Linden’s final act as an NHL player was to be honoured by the NHL Foundation during the recently concluded Stanley Cup Final. Along with Tampa Bay’s Vincent Lecavalier, Linden was recognized as a player who applies the core values of hockey – commitment, perseverance and teamwork – to enrich the lives of people in his community.

And at the award luncheon in Pittsburgh, Linden was presented with a $25,000 cheque which, without hesitation, he turned over to Canuck Place Children’s Hospice – one of the charities nearest and dearest to him.

But Linden’s stay in Pittsburgh was a short one because he had to hurry home to take part, just days later, in the BC Cancer Foundation’s Westside Cycling Classic. Like the powerful force he was when in full-flight barging down the wing with the puck on his stick, Linden has proven to be a power forward when it comes to giving – of his time, his money and most importantly himself.

And even though his hockey career is now officially over, Linden shows no signs of ever retiring from the much more important game of helping those around him.

At first glance, the announcement of Linden’s retirement is a sad occasion. But given all that the organization has been through with the recent tragic passing of Luc Bourdon, there is a sense of perspective to this occasion.

Trevor Linden has had a remarkable run – unparalleled in so many respects over the 40 year history of the Vancouver Canucks. And there’s no question it will be different when the team heads for training camp in September and Linden is no longer among the guys in uniform. But there is nothing to be sad about.

Be happy that he’ll have more time to pursue his other passions – cycling and golf. Be happy that he’ll be able to delve into other careers from property development to broadcasting to anything he chooses to do in hockey circles. And be happy he walks away from the game on his own terms and in good health.

Save the tears for the next time you see Trevor Linden at GM Place. That’s the night the familiar jersey and number 16 he wore so proudly for so many years will take their rightful spot in the rafters. If you thought the final moments of his final game were an indication of how much Canuck fans have loved Linden -- and vice versa-- for all these years, you haven’t seen anything yet.

Trevor Linden - In his own words
The one-hour special airs Monday, June 23rd @ 9:00pm on Sportsnet Pacific. Follow Vancouver's favourite son through his final season; the highs, the lows, the tearful goodbye. More than just a review of a season, Canucks TV will explore a career of giving back and the reflections of a proud and humble man.
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