July 13, 2016

Trevor Linden's Rookie Diary

The Vancouver Canucks, like most teams, recently concluded their prospects camp. It gives a chance for management and coaches to look at a bunch of wide eyed kids, most of whom will never truly make it in the NHL.

There was never any question that Trevor Linden, a junior superstar drafted 2nd overall back in 1988, was always destined to star in the league. But like all 18 year olds at their first NHL training camps, he was every bit as wide eyed himself. Perhaps he thinks back to those days as he watches these kids now.

I found this while searching through the archives. It is the diary, as published in the Vancouver Sun, of rookie Trevor Linden way back in 1988. It's a pretty neat look into Linden's mindset so many years ago. He discusses his acceptance with his new teammates, his admiration for Bobby Clarke and the Sutters, and having to cook steaks for all of the players in training camp!

Sept 12th, 1988: I was nervous coming in, not knowing what to expect. But now I'm learning to treat it like just another camp. It's just a matter of settling down and playing my game.

My biggest concern coming to camp was my weight. I weighed about 183 after we won the Memorial Cup (with Medicine Hat Tigers) but I really worked hard this summer, lifting weights, to put on some more muscle. I came to camp at about 200.

Any time you put on substantial weight like that you've got to be a little concerned. Will I be as quick with the extra bulk?

I feel good now because I don't think I gave up anything. I can handle the pace and I'm happy with my play along the walls (boards). I want to show the management here that I can play it both ways - either a grinding game or a skating game.

The pace here is a lot faster than in junior, but about the same as in the world junior tournament (Linden played on the Canadian team that won the gold medal). The biggest difference is everyone is so much bigger. It's the difference betwen men and boys. The defencemen are a lot stronger and they hold you up more.

They've got me playing on a line with Rob Murphy (a centre, who was the Canucks' first draft pick in 1987) and Todd Hawkins is playing the left side. I don't know why that was done, but I think we're working well together. I know Rob can play because we were at the world junior training camp together last month (in Kitchener, Ont.)

Sept 13th, 1988:I have no idea what the coaches and management think of the way I'm playing, but I expect that's normal. With more than 70 guys in camp, they don't have time to talk to everyone.

We've had five scrimmages in three days, so we're all pretty tired. But I'm looking forward to playing against the veterans for a change. The pace will be a lot faster and I'll get a chance to learn more.

Training camp is tiring work. We're up at six a.m. for breakfast, a stretch at 7 and we're on the ice at 8. I try to catch an hour of sleep sometime during the day, so I can be ready for the next session. No matter how tired you are, you have to be ready to go.

We're supposed to be in bed by 12 but there's no way I can stay up that long. Last night I had a soak in the hot tub and I was in bed before 10.

We had a motivational meeting with a sports psychologist (Dr. Lee Pulos) for a couple of hours Monday afternoon. He talked to us about visualization, keeping a positive attitude, that sort of thing. I'm really into that mental stuff. I think it's very important. So much about this game is attitude. If you can prepare yourself mentally, it's half the battle.

Sept 14th, 1988: It took me a little while to adjust to a different pace against the NHL guys. The first period I was a little behind. But we got better in the second and by the third period I think our line was playing pretty well.

The first three days were like playing in junior. The play was a lot more scrambly and you had time to float. But you can't float against these guys (NHL players). They're on you before you know it. The rink seems tighter. They move the puck better. Everything is so much faster.

Everybody is here to win a job. There is competition and fights because those things happen. But everyone gets along pretty well.

You might think the veterans wouldn't associate much with the rookies, but that's not the case. If there are any questions, they're there to answer them.

After the first period, Doug Lidster took me aside and gave me some advice on how to pick up my man when the other team is coming out of their zone. He told me it's better to pressure them in their own zone before they get going, rather than waiting for them to come out. I'm here to learn and I appreciate things like that.

The veterans have all been great. They've included the rookies in everything. Garth Butcher took three of us out to dinner last night. Richie Sutter took me out the night before. They've made me feel like a Vancouver Canuck from the start.

Sept 15th, 1988: I'm from Alberta (Medicine Hat), so I'm used to eating lots of beef. But this is the first time I've had to cook my own steak. Usually I just say, 'Dad. I'll have mine medium rare.'

They picked me and two other rookies, Carl Valimont and Steve Johnson, to handle the cooking. Steaks for 70 players, plus the coaches, scouts, trainers and managers!

At least I got to eat a couple of them. I'm a really big eater. My metabolism is so high I can put away a lot of food and not gain an ounce.

We've got one more day of training camp before our first exhibition game and I think everyone is looking forward to the end of camp. Camp is fine, but now you want to get out there and play.

The pace doesn't seem so fast now as it was at the beginning of the week. I'm getting used to it. Still, Wednesday wasn't one of my better days. I just didn't seem to get much done. You have your good days and your bad days. No one can be magic all the time.

It doesn't look like Gretzky will be playing (in Duncan). But our line (Linden, Rob Murphy and Todd Hawkins) will probably be going up against guys like Luc Robitaille and Bernie Nicholls, so it will really be a test. You can't stand around in awe looking at those guys and expect to get anything done. I'm trying to treat it like just another game. But, of course, that's easier said than done.

Sept 16th, 1988:All my life I've worn only two numbers - 16, because that was the number Bobby Clarke, my favorite player, wore - and No. 9, after I got to junior. I guess every player has a special number he'd like to have. But, look. I'm just happy to have a sweater! I'll take any number they give me. Besides, it's the player who makes the number, not the other way around. It was Clarke who made No. 16 great.

The thing about Clarke I always admired was the way he worked. He never stopped trying. It's the same with the Sutters.

When I was a growing up in Medicine Hat, Richie, Ron and Brent Sutter played junior for Lethbridge, only about two hours' drive away. Of course, I was a real Tigers' fan and I used to hate Lethbridge. I didn't like 'em at all. But even if I wanted them to lose, I always liked watching the Sutters play. They just wouldn't quit. Sometimes they'd just beat the Tigers by themselves.

I guess it's kind of funny that I ended up playing here with one. There are a lot of players who've made an impression on me this week. I guess, because I admire players who work as hard as Bobby Clarke did, that the guy I've watched the most is Richie Sutter.

He goes hard. He's going all the time, even when he's playing with a sore back and he isn't at his best. That's the kind of player I want to be.

Sept 17th, 1988 (following Linden's first exhibition game against Los Angeles, in Duncan BC): For me, it was no big deal that Gretzky didn't play. I was already nervous enough. I admit I was a little bit in awe out there.

I started out tentatively and some of the veterans like Tony Tanti and Barry Pederson helped me to settle down. They didn't say anything unusual. They told me not to try and do too much and just play my own game. So I just tried to do the things I've done that got me here - go after the puck, hound the puck carrier, play physical.

Bob McCammon showed a lot of faith in us by playing us in key situations, on the power play and late in overtime when there was a faceoff in the Kings' end. It was a boost for our confidence.

Early in the game, he put five of us (rookies) out on the power play and Rob (Murphy) scored on a slap shot from the slot. Rob had a really big game. He was breaking away in the second period when Ron Duguay tripped him. They put us out on the power play again. I had a good chance to score in close on Doug Keans, but I lifted the puck too high.

Defensively, I wasn't all that happy with the way I played. A couple of times I let the point man slip past me because I turned my back to him. But I'm learning. I feel that in every game, scrimmage or workout I've picked up something that's going to help me improve.

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