October 10, 2019

Canucks Season Opener Classy, But Big Absence

The 8-2 win over the Los Angeles Kings was nice. The naming of Bo Horvat as the new team captain was warranted. And the pre-game presentation was about as classy as it comes.

But the real story may be who was not in attendance, and why?

The Canucks paraded out former stars Dennis Kearns, Stan Smyl, Kirk McLean, Todd Bertuzzi, Orland Kurtenbach and Daniel and Henrik Sedins for the ceremony. Markus Naslund was in Sweden and unable to attend, but he did reach out online.

Yet arguably the two biggest names in franchise history were absent. Pavel Bure and Trevor Linden.
(We could bring up Roberto Luongo's name here, too, but somehow since this only game one since Luongo's retirement from Florida, somehow it feels like there is plenty of time to repatriate him as a Canucks legend).

Bure is no surprise. He has been all but estranged from the franchise since the day he left in 1999. Aside from a couple of days of appearances in 2013 to retire his jersey, it seems Bure has little interest in his place in Canucks history or even hockey history outside of Russia.

Linden is a surprise. This should have been his first appearance with the franchise that "amicably" let him go as President of Hockey Operations a year ago. He will forever remain the favorite son of the franchise, as only the Sedins have come close to similar status. Yet, on a night when most of the greats were there, he, of all people, was absent.

The question is why? And ultimately the question is just how amicable was that split?

Team officials said Linden was unavailable as he was out of town on a trip booked months ago, but that has been proven to be inaccurate. He was in town. They reassured that Linden will take part in 50th anniversary ceremonies, though a scheduled appearance in February 10th remains unconfirmed by Linden.

So is this a cover up by Aquillinis who did not want Linden there? Probably not. They do realize how important Linden is to the fans, and that's why he is so prominently featured in 50th anniversary marketing materials. No matter how strained the relationship might be, the Aquillinis have to include Linden one would think.

So is Linden avoiding the Canucks? He's been around hockey a long, long time and knows why the season starts. Was his planned trip a convenient excuse to not attend? Does he no longer want to be part of the organization that fired him?

Now everyone will stop here and point out how classy Linden is and that he would not let down the community by completely boycotting. Even under the worst of assumed circumstances he will make his appearances. 

Then again, he did conveniently have an out of town trip when Bure's jersey retirement happened, and it's long been rumoured that those two do not see eye to eye.

I am certain both sides will say all the right things. I expect Linden will be there on February night when the franchise retires the Sedins jerseys. However Linden, a close friend of Daniel and Henrik, will be there because the Sedins will have invited him, not necessarily the organization. And if that is his only appearance, wow what a story we have here.

The Canucks franchise has been hard-luck to down right cursed over 50 years. To be estranged from Bure and now Linden is terrible karma. The franchise has to right this. Aquillinis tried with Bure, but ultimately it has to be a two way street. And now they might have a karma problem with Linden.

There was a time when the Montreal Canadiens had burned bridges with several of their all time greats, including Rocket Richard and Guy Lafleur. They spent considerable effort to mend those relationships. The Toronto Maple Leafs did the same, most notably with Dave Keon.

Now some of this is on Linden, too. He should have been the bigger man and put the fans and franchise ahead of any rift with the Aquillinis. 

The Canucks better get working on mending these relationships. Or this rift will overshadow the 50th anniversary celebrations and be yet another black mark on a franchise full of black marks.

No comments: