Coming And Going
Many people are famous for their abilities, but often that clouds our judgement of the people - someone becomes an icon because they get 100 points in a season, or fifty goals, or have led their teams to a championship (or three).
In Trevor Linden's best season he had 80 points; he reached 33 goals three times, but no more than that; and the Canucks fell two goals short of the Stanley Cup more than a decade ago and have never been back.
Tributes have been pouring in for a player who was Vancouver's captain for only six of his 16 years with the team (yet is known as "Captain Canuck"), and there is reason to believe he could be voted in to whatever political office he wanted in that town. He's not just a "fan favorite" - he's got people building shrines for him. Canucks management corrected a mistake by trading two draft picks (including a first rounder) to bring him home - a price no other team would pay - and the fans didn't even blink at the cost.
There are a startling number of children - and now teens, too - named "Trevor" and "Linden" in this province.
He never announced that he was skating his final season, so no round-the-league goodbye tour happened for him, yet the Calgary Flames waited at the end of the last game to shake his hand, even coming out of the dressing room to do so.
It's crazy, yes; but a happy sort of lunacy at that. The quetion is: why?
He was always a hard worker, never surrendering on a game or a shift, and the fans here like that sort of thing (see also: Stan "Steamer" Smyl, among others), but there was much, much more.
When students built a storage shed at a children's hospice, they named it "Trevor's Garage" not for his playing, but for the endless support he gave (and still gives) to the kids there. On fan sites, the hope was that he'd play one more year with a team that had a chance at winning the Cup, with Vancouver or anywhere else, a la Ray Borque. Signs promoting him for mayor (and a few implying the team's newest GM was hired too soon...) are appearing.
If a consience is what you do when no one's looking, then what does that say about a man who went to the Children's Hospital scores of times without a camera in sight?
He hesitated before announcing his retirement to see what would happen with the GM and coaching decisions - it's no secret that coach Vingeault didn't want to use Linden, scratching him from the line-up more than twenty times; and new GM Gillis is a friend of Bob Goodenow, the NHL Player's Association boss Linden overthrew in order to end the2004-05 lockout. Nonis was an ally; Gillis... not so much.
Clearly, Linden is comfortable with his decision to leave hockey, at least for now; and the fans are just going to have to find a way to turn their mourning into a wake of the best sort: one where you can tell the stories, honour the man, then wish him well when he moves on to a new life.