There’s times over here in Vancouver when this little Aussie thinks he’s perhaps been here too long. Take tonight for instance.
My beloved Vancouver Canucks, and yes I do talk about them as if they are my very own team even after only being a resident here for 3 years, have had a pretty rocky season and, if we’re to be completely honest, a pretty disappointing tail end. A playoffs berth was theirs for the taking if they wanted it enough. But, with the exception of their gritty win last week over arch rivals the Calgary Flames, the Canucks went into their final handful of must-win games with a seeming lack of the energy and passion required to take a team into the middle stages of April (aka playoff time).
Tonight was definitely no exception – a 7-1 loss to that same Calgary outfit we beat up and outscored in last week’s cracker jack match up. Ordinarily, a 7-1 loss would be cause for most Canuck fans to start calling for blood. But tonight was different. Tonight was all about the beloved gentle giant with the number 16 on his back. Tonight was all about Trevor Linden (TL).
With 1,140 games over 19 seasons in an assortment of Canucks jerseys under his belt, tonight’s final game of the regular season and the Canucks’ last for season 2007/08, was probably TL’s last. The words haven’t trickled over TL’s lips at this stage and he even mentioned to commentators in a post-game interview tonight that he still has some thinking to do and a few people to talk to, but all the signs were there tonight. From his parents flying in from Medicine Hat to be present at the game, to the standing ovation afforded him by loyal fans, team mates and respecting opponents both before the puck was dropped for the third period, potentially the last 20 minutes of professional hockey in his career, and also after the final siren had wailed – the signs were there.
And this brings me to the bit about feeling like I’ve been here too long…
I’m man enough to admit that at the end of the game, Linden’s departure from the ice brought a tear to my eye. You could be forgiven for thinking that’s a bit odd considering the short amount of time I have been here and considering I’ve only seen, at best, 2 of the 19 seasons that he put in for Vancouver. I have, however, seen how much of a gentleman Linden has been in every aspect of his life both on and off the ice. Every sport needs its characters – the tantrum throwers, the flamboyant, arrogant media magnets etc, but there’s no doubt that Linden represents the kind of player, the kind of man, that Canadian juniors should aspire to be.
Sure, his best years on the ice were probably behind him before I arrived in town. I wasn’t here to witness him captain a black, red and yellow Canucks outfit to the absolute final post – game 7 in the 1994 NHL Stanley Cup playoffs. I have witnessed, however, the clearly visible respect and admiration shown for him by fans, team mates and even the media. He wasn’t the best guy out there on the ice night after night, although he did have a knack of lighting up the ice in big games, but the way in which he conducted himself was enough to win him a sizable legion of fans. In short, he’s a damn likable bloke. I don’t know of any other player that has given as much time, from what I have seen anyway, to the sometimes uncomplimentary media or off-ice charity and other engagements than Linden. I guess that’s just another reason why he is so loved by so many and will, if indeed the writing is on the wall, be missed by so many.
There’s scant chance that the great TL will ever cast his eyeballs across this Blog entry, but if you ever do mate, thanks for an entertaining career. This little Aussie, at least, will miss seeing the #16 on the ice next season.