July 13, 2013

1994 Vancouver Canucks: Forever A Canuck: Trevor Linden

The following is an excerpt from my unreleased book: Remembering The 1994 Vancouver Canucks. Please see below for the full table of contents.

Before you read this, I must confess: Trevor Linden may be my favorite player of all time.

I grew up watching hockey on the west coast in the 1980s. The Edmonton Oilers reigned supreme back then, and Wayne Gretzky was everybody's favorite. I also had a serious infatuation with Soviet hockey players long before they were allowed to play in the NHL.

I quickly became a pretty sophisticated fan of the entire league. And I've always had the history bug, allowing me to respect the legends that preceded my time.

But I was always a Vancouver Canucks fan, which was anything but easy for most of the 1980s. It was not until Trevor Linden's arrival that I finally had someone to truly admire. No disrespect to Tony Tanti, my other favorite Canuck of the 80s, but in so many ways Trevor Linden became the player I admired most.

In comparison to Gretzky and the Soviets, Linden may seem like an odd choice. Linden was not flashy or highly skilled, not a great scorer or a flawless skater. He was essentially a hard worker, the personification of selflessness, an unquantifiable hockeyist who excelled in intangibles, effort and class.

He was also a great person - the kind of person we all want to be. Perhaps that drew me to him as much as his hockey. His charity efforts. His tireless work on the ice. His genuine likability off of it.

I had first heard of Trevor Linden back when he was still in junior. Not being located anywhere near a WHL team at the time, Linden may have been the first junior superstar I had really learned of. So when Linden came to Vancouver, so too did a lot hope, at least in my heart.

I was not disappointed. And, by no small coincidence, probably for the first time in my adolescence of hockey, I truly realized just how much I loved this game.

Linden led the Canucks to the team's greatest moment in 1994 - game 7 of the Stanley Cup Finals. After a relatively disappointing 85 point, 2nd place finish, the Canucks caught fire in the playoffs. After falling behind 3-1 in the opening round against Calgary, the Canucks stormed back to win 4 games to 3 and then would blow by Dallas and Toronto to face Mark Messier, Mike Keenan and the New York Rangers. Lead by Linden's leadership and physical play, Pavel Bure's goal scoring and Kirk McLean's incredible goaltending, the Canucks took the Rangers to 7 games. The final game was as close as could possibly be. Had Nathan Lafeyette's third period shot hit the inside of the goalpost instead of the outside, perhaps the Canucks could have forced overtime. Unfortunately, the Canucks would lose game 7 by a score of 3 goals to 2, both scored by Trevor Linden.

The iconic photograph of an exhausted and bloodied Trevor Linden congratulating Kirk McLean after a victory in Game 6 remains the quintessential image of the franchise. Linden was literally beat up in that Finals, playing with badly damaged ribs that made it hard to get up and down, let alone battle for the Stanley Cup.

Mark Messier inflicted more pain when he attacked Linden late in Game 6, drawing blood with a high stick before turning back to drive his stick into Linden's ribs. Somehow all of that went unnoticed by the refs and the league, while Linden crawled back to the bench in agonizing pain.

But there was never any doubting Linden would lead the Canucks into battle in game 7.  He set the tone physically and scoring both Vancouver goals that night. He played so well he was even named as the first star of that game seven. Trevor Linden had undoubtedly earned the respect of everyone in hockey.

Unfortunately the New York Rangers would win that game. The pain of the loss that night was far worse than cracked ribs and broken noses.

June 11th/14th, 1994 - The Highs, The Lows

Bure-ing The Flames
The Russian Rocket
Captain Kirk

Shooting Down The Stars
The Elbow
The Mighty Pat Quinn
Cliff Ronning: The Little Man That Could

Be-Leaf It Or Not!
Forever A Canuck: Trevor Linden
Greg Adams! Greg Adams!

New York: All The World Is A Stage
The Penalty Shot
Nathan Lafayette And That Damn Goal Post
What A Mess!
Doug Lidster: The Lone Ranger
It Was A Riot!

June 15th, 2011: Looking Back At 1994

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

As a Canucks fan, I really hate Mark Messier in more ways than one