What a wild week it was for the Canucks. Tuesday April 8 marked the firing of former GM Mike Gillis. The following day, the team announced the hiring of franchise player and fan favourite Trevor Linden as the new President of Hockey Operations. Linden attended his first game on Thursday April 10, to much applause. The team participated in Ryan Smyth’s final game as an Edmonton Oiler on Saturday April 12, an emotional experience for all. The Canucks then completed the week by inducting Pat Quinn into the Ring of Honour on Sunday April 13 to punctuate the final game of the team’s season. There’s a lot to talk about.
Firstly, I was fortunate enough to gain tickets to Thursday night’s game against the Colorado Avalanche. This was particularly poignant as it marked Trevor Linden’s first game as President of Hockey Operations for the Vancouver Canucks, a long awaited return after lacing up his skates for the team for the last time in 2008 following his 16-season tenure. There was a noticeable buzz in the building, a clear contrast to the lacklustre atmosphere at the Nashville Predators game I attended back in March. Minutes into the first period, I believe it was during the TV timeout, a short montage played and the camera panned to the owner’s box and displayed Linden on the Jumbotron. The new President received a rousing standing ovation and it was genuinely moving to see the level of support for him from a city to whom he has given so much. Additionally, it must have been a little dusty in there. There was definitely something in my eye.
I digress. The crowd was amped-up and the team had a little more jump, too. The game ended 4-2 in favour of the Avs, the last goal an empty netter, but it was encouraging to see a little more life in the building.
Saturday the team visited Edmonton in a final clash against the Oilers. The game held significance as it marked the final game for Oilers captain Ryan Smyth, his 1,270th NHL game (you read that correctly – one-thousand-two-hundred-and-seventieth) and 15th season with the team. The Canucks fell 5-2, but won in the eyes of – well, me – due to their post-game gesture of goodwill. As the game concluded and Smyth, former Captain Canada, waved to the crowd and relished his last moments in an Oilers jersey, the Canucks rejoined the ice and lined up to shake his hand. The display of sportsmanship did not go unnoticed, with CBC’s Hockey Night in Canada commentators emphasizing the gesture.
Cut to Sunday, the Canucks’ final game of a tumultuous season. A 6pm puck drop, fans were encouraged to find their seats by 5:45pm for a ceremony to induct Pat Quinn into the Ring of Honour. Hall of Fame broadcaster Jim Robson hosted the ceremony, and Quinn stepped on to the ice with his family and gave a speech peppered with cheers from the crowd.
Quinn served as General Manager of the Vancouver Canucks from 1987-88 to 1997-98 and as Head Coach from 1990-91 to 1993-94 and 1995-96. He famously drafted Trevor Linden and Pavel Bure, and acquired Marcus Naslund through trade. Linden, Bure and Naslund represent three of the four players in Canucks history to have their numbers retired. Pat Quinn will become the fifth Canuck to join the ring of honour since its inception during the 2010-11 40th anniversary season, and joins other Canuck greats including Orland Kurtenbach, Kirk McLean, Thomas Gradin and Harold Snepsts.
The game itself wasn’t without incident. Daniel Sedin received a hit from behind delivered by Calgary forward Paul Byron. Sedin fell into the boards head-first. Motionless for longer than anyone deemed comfortable, fans held their breath and were noticeably emotional in the stands. He was stretchered off the ice, marring an otherwise productive game where he secured two goals on eight shots.
“It was scary,” said Daniel in today’s season-in-review news conference, flanked by teammates Kevin Bieksa, Ryan Kesler and brother Henrik. “I went to the hospital. Everything looked good. It feels OK today.”
The Canucks won the game 5-1, but you wouldn’t have known it from Head Coach John Tortorella’s post-game interview. Noticeably frustrated, Torts called out Flames’ Head Coach Bob Hartley. The two have a chequered past following a scuffle during a January 18 match-up where Hartley started his fourth line grinders against the Canucks’ top line. After last night’s game and the resulting injury to Daniel Sedin, Torts dubbed Hartley as ‘embarrassing.’
“You tuck your tail between your legs and you leave – it’s been a rough year,” said Tortorella. “It’s been a rough year. But it’s embarrassing to coach against (Hartley), some of the things that went on when Danny (was) hurt. It’s embarrassing. But I probably have no right to say anything considering the year that I’ve had.”
“This game means nothing,” said Tortorella. “We’re done.”
That’s all, folks.