It has been a busy couple days for hockey fans in Vancouver. Yesterday, the team fired Mike Gillis from his position as General Manager for the Vancouver Canucks, and today franchise player Trevor Linden was named President of Hockey Operations.
The announcement, breaking on Twitter today and closely followed by a news conference, marks Linden’s return to a team where he spent 16 seasons – including seven seasons as team captain. Linden is arguably best known for his role in the Canucks’ 1994 playoff run where the team came one game shy of winning the Stanley Cup, falling to the New York Rangers. In recent times, Linden has become known for his philanthropy and also his business ventures including his line of gyms. Despite quashing rumours during a live interview yesterday, his heart has always been with the team and its city. He expressed his goal to bring the Stanley Cup to Vancouver, something he narrowly missed as a player.
“Today is a real honour. I came to Vancouver 26 years ago and I have never left. I love this city. It is my home and the Canucks have always been part of my family. I’m passionate about the Canucks and I want to win – just like our fans. I believe in this team and share the organization’s commitment to excellence on and off of the ice. I am looking forward to getting started – getting to know everyone in the organization, and working together to win the Stanley Cup for this great city and province.”
Even with his experience as President of the NHLPA for eight years, a small selection of cynical ‘fans’ in Vancouver (and I use that term loosely) questioned Linden’s suitability for the role and marked the announcement as a public relations move on the back of dissatisfied fans and alleged struggling season ticket renewals. Linden addressed those statements in today’s news conference.
“I was in the game professionally for 20 years, 15 years with the NHLPA and I’ve always felt I have a great passion for the game and love for the game. I feel I’ve got a very common sense approach, I’m able to understand things quickly and I think at the end of the day, I’m not perfect, but I’ve got pretty good judgment. Those things are going to serve me well, I’ve never spent a day in an NHL office as an executive, so I’ve got a lot to learn, but I’ve always felt that I’m a good learner.”
Linden remembers his rookie years and those who helped him early on in his career, specifically former Vancouver Canucks President and General Manager, Pat Quinn. Shortly after he called his parents prior to today’s announcement, Linden dialed Quinn with the news.
“I’m thankful that when Pat walked to the podium in 1988 that he said my name, and 26 years later I’m still enjoying this drive across the Burrard street bridge with the sun coming up. It’s pretty cool,” said Linden at today’s news conference.
“That’s why I never wanted to play anywhere else and that’s why I never wanted to work anywhere else in hockey; Vancouver, any way you cut it, is one of the great cities in the world to live. For me, I’ve always felt that I was so lucky to be here for as long as I was and I really mean that. Most players, if they spend three or four years in a city, they’re lucky. I had 16 of the 20 years as a professional here. I’m grateful.”
Linden retired as a Vancouver Canuck on June 11, 2008 – the 20th anniversary of his draft day. His number was later retired to the rafters. Linden holds Canucks playoff records for most games played (118), goals (34), assists (61) and points (95). He has represented Canada at various levels, winning two silver medals and a gold medal. Linden was appointed into the Order of Canada in 2010 and in 2008 he received the NHL Foundation’s Player Award for his commitment to hockey and his involvement in the community.