It was a meaningless game, and a terribly played one at that. But it did not matter.
The only thing that mattered was Vancouver fans' chance to say goodbye to the greatest Canuck in history.
38 year old Trevor Linden is expected to retire this off season, although he's still publicly saying he has not made up his mind just yet. He came to Vancouver as an 18 year old, took the team to within a goal post of a Stanley Cup championship, and became the face of the franchise. Saturday night was one final great moment for #16, a moment full of Linden's signature trademark - class.
Coach Alain Vigneault, who has not been a great Linden supporter, gave Linden a season high 18+ minutes including prime time spent on the power play and with the Sedin Twins. The Canucks were guilty of trying to get their hero a goal as opposed to playing hockey on this night. Linden had a couple of good chances early, but never did find the twine.
On the opening face off of the third period the GM Place crowd erupted into a long standing ovation for Linden. Referees graciously held up play for the moment, and the Calgary Flames players exited the face off circle and joined in the applause. An almost embarrassed Linden smirked and raised his stick to the crowd.
Linden's final shift welcomed another boisterous standing ovation. But the best was to come after the final whistle.
The Canucks players all skated to share a moment with Linden, as opposed to the traditional congratulations to the goalie. Jarome Iginla may have shown the classiest moment of the night when he rounded up his teammates, many of who left for the dressing room, and brought them over to shake Linden's hand as well.
Not surprisingly Linden was named the first star, although it was based on his previous 20 seasons more so than for anything on this night. His curtain call allowed for one final ovation. Linden seemed to take more of this moment in, taking a victory lap around the ice, and applauding the fans right back.
I have not been shy in saying that Trevor Linden is my favorite player, and I have to admit I had a wet eye as all this transpired. My last hockey hero has left the ice. I remember his arrival like it was yesterday. 20 years could not have passed by so quickly, could they have? How is that possible?
As a kid you can hero worship and develop emotional attachment to players. Adults can't do that. Not to the same degree.
With Linden's exit I now face being a hockey fan without any strong emotional attachment to any player. I am a much more sophisticated fan, and I am very aware to observe and appreciate players all around the league for all that they are. But I can never again develop that innocent love of a player or even of the game that kids can.
I am now left pondering one question. Will hockey be a different experience for me now? Undoubtedly it will, but that is for another day. Today I just want to say this:
Goodbye Trevor Linden. Thank you.