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Retired Canuck Trevor Linden surprised to see his No. 16 hoisted on GM Place

NHL.com @NHL

VANCOUVER, B.C. - He might not have been the most talented person who ever wore the uniform, but for many Vancouver Canucks fans Trevor Linden will always be remembered as the player who best represented the NHL team.

Linden combined skill on the ice with commitment to the community. He might have failed in his attempt to lead the Canucks to a Stanley Cup championship but when the Medicine Hat, Alta., native officially retired in June after 19 seasons he left as a winner in the public's eyes.

Linden's contribution to the team and the city was marked Wednesday when the main entrance and reception area for guests entering GM Place was renamed Gate 16 in honour of his number.

A ceremony officially retiring his jersey was planned for later in the evening prior to the Canucks playing the Edmonton Oilers.

Usually poised and in control, Linden was surprised by his number being hoisted on the building. The ceremony was held outside, in heavy falling snow, and attended by his wife Cristina, father Lane, mother Edna and Gary Bettman, commissioner of the NHL. "It's an incredible honour," said Linden, 38. "I'm totally caught off guard. It's very special for sure.

"To have a place at GM Place in perpetuity is incredible. I'm somewhat shocked and overwhelmed and a bit speechless for sure."

Linden's No. 16 will join Stan Smyl's No. 12 as the only two jerseys retired by the Canucks.

"For a player it's extremely special," said Linden, whom the Canucks selected second overall in the 1988 draft. "It's often the most special moment in sport.

"It's really an amazing day."

Bettman praised Linden not only as a player, but as an ambassador for hockey.

"There could be no finer representative not only of the NHL, but of professional athletes anywhere," Bettman said.

Linden was head of the National Hockey League Players' Association during the labour dispute which cost the 2004-05 season.

Bettman said the two "worked together through some difficult times" and said Linden "demonstrated extraordinary leadership and extraordinary courage."

Linden played 1,382 NHL games with the Canucks, Montreal Canadiens, New York Islanders and Washington Capitals. He had 375 goals and 492 assists for 867 points.

He spent 16 years as a Canuck and said Vancouver always was his home.

"That happened very quickly," he said. "It was very easy."

He became known locally for his charity work, something Linden said team ownership encouraged.

"Part of your duty was to contribute off the ice and in the community," Linden said. "That was something that was stressed early in my career.

"It was never a burden. It was always something I enjoyed. Once you start getting involved in the community it becomes home."

Linden's finest moment as a player was when he led the Canucks to Game 7 of the 1994 Stanley Cup final before losing to the New York Rangers.

He also led the Medicine Hat Tigers to consecutive Memorial Cup titles and was a member of Canada's Olympic hockey team at the 1998 Nagano Winter Games.

For years, hockey was the biggest part of Linden's life. Since retiring he's spent time mountain biking, skiing and enjoying life with his family.

He's had "some conversations with different people" about returning to the game in some capacity but is in no hurry to make a commitment.

"I am trying to figure out what works best for me," he said. "I've promised myself I would take a year or two and try and figure out what area is best for me.

"I love the game but I want to make sure that's the place I want to be. I'm not sure of that yet."

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