My Trevor Linden story isn’t much, but at the time, it spoke volumes to me.
I was doing some sports work for a Victoria radio station back in 1991 when I went to the Canuck camp up-island in Parksville. I had interviewed lots of hockey players by then and had a boat load of tapes that talked about the usual stuff. You know “giving 110%…individual stats don’t mean much…only the wins count.” Blah, blah blah.
But Trevor never talked much about that kind of stuff. He was counted, just barely, as a veteran back then and was now clearly taking on a more meaningful role with the team as a Captain. It wasn’t enough that he lead the team in goals, points, hits and plus minus.
Every player I asked that year said that yes, they would compete for the Cup. Pat Quinn and Brian Burke had assembled the right mix, they all said. They had the character players, the scorers, the defense and the goaltending…and the will to win it all. When I asked Trevor, he hesitated, it seems obvious in retrospect that he was torn between walking the company line and saying what was on his mind.
“It’s the hardest trophy to win in all of sports,” he said. “Most championships are one game and then it’s over. But the Stanley Cup goes on for nearly two months. There are just so many factors that go into winning it all that I really can’t say yet. But it really is a marathon and who can say in September what will happen in June.”
Jeez, honesty. I wasn’t expecting that.
It seems on the face of it, an innocuous, answer. Here was a guy who had won Memorial Cups, so he knew what it took to win a championship. He’d said previously that his dream was to win the Stanley Cup. And a little more than three years later, he left it all on the ice in that seventh game. He had virtually collapsed at the end, sitting with his head down after it was over. His eyes were blackened, his nose shifted a couple of degrees to the left, his gaze hollow. If effort was all it took, Trevor would have had his cup.
If life was fair, Nathan Lafayette would have tied it. If hockey was fair, Trevor would have scored the hat trick goal in overtime and wiped that grin off Nosferatu’s (messier‘s) face and forever confined Adolph (keenan) to Dante’s seventh circle of hell.
Ah hell, it didn‘t happen.
Hockey has had some great players who have had their sweaters raised to the roof. Guys who scored 50, 70, even 90 goals and also won numerous Cups. But I submit they never had an impact on the community like Trevor did. And more importantly, not one of them had the impact that Trevor did on the game of hockey.
No, not a bit. Because Trevor took a huge personal risk and carried the players’ association on his back to force a settlement that ended the infamous lockout. There would have been no hockey for a long time if he hadn’t done that, because Bettman had finally gotten the owners on the same page about cost certainty. And this time they weren’t giving up.
So, as much as guys like Chelios tried to equate a salary cap with communism and guys like Bryan McCabe (who signed a long term deal a couple of years later for $5.5 million…yes, Bryan McCabe) said he would retire rather than play under a salary cap.
The deal Trevor signed as the player rep is the same deal today that sees players getting offers like $80 million for eight years to play this game. Sure, the game faces some problems, all pro sports leagues do, but they are as healthy as they’ve ever been because Trevor listened to his constituents and those constituents wanted to play hockey.
Gretzky, Orr and Howe may have changed the game, but it was Trevor Linden who saved it.
Linden has been somewhat coy about his retirement plans. Some people see him as a coach. Some people see him as GM material. He has consistently said that he wanted to take a couple of years to decide what he might do after playing. Tommy Larscheid said one time after a shootout that Trevor could run for mayor.
Personally, I think that’s all a bit too limited for a guy like this.
Okay, to the game. I watched the humiliation of the Oilers last night by the young guns of Chicago. I imagine they’ll be looking for some retribution, if not redemption tonight.
But nothing emerges as a trend in the first period. Both teams come out cautious, with the Canucks showing the Oilers a bit too much respect. On both Oiler PPs however, our PK establishes a superior game. On the first PP the Oil don’t get a shot. On the second PP, the Oilers control more of the play, but Curtis Sanford is equal to the task and we are not seriously threatened. Sanford doesn’t seem to have the yips that have affected his last couple of games.
We also get two PPs and Wellwood in the final minute gets two glorious chances but just fails to score. He still looks like magic though, and if his stats are to be believed (35.5% shooting percentage), he should score on his next shot on net.
The second period is a clinic on how to play the Oilers, especially when Rolosen is in net. Rollie makes a lot of instinctive saves but he hates traffic more than anyone I’ve ever seen save for Dan Cloutier (you see, you can use the word save and Dan Cloutier in a sentence). It often drives him to distraction.
On the first goal Wellwood controls the puck and gets it back to the point while Daniel Sedin crowds the net. Hard to say whether Staois checking Sedin into Rollie caused the goal or whether it was going in anyway. Either way we are up one nothing.
And ever since Ryan Kesler took a diving penalty a few games ago, he has turned his game around. This time it’s all hustle as Kesler gets his own rebound and banks it in off Rolle while Bernier crowds the net. Suddenly we are up two zip and the Oil look like they haven’t really warmed up yet. As a matter of fact it takes them over nine minutes for them to register a shot. We trade penalties but our PK keeps them to the outside. With about three minutes to play, the steadily improving Janik Hansen, kicks the puck behind the Oiler’s net and then makes a quick pass to Daniel. Like all natural goal scorers, Daniel doesn’t keep the puck on his stick. The shot is behind Rollie before he knows that there’s been a shot.
But a couple of injuries to our D has left us with only four healthy D-men and Bieksa takes a penalty with just seconds to go so the Oilers aren’t totally out of it yet, even as the period ends with us up three zip.
The third period is hardly a classic as we bend, but don’t break. The Oilers get one early and one late but the Canucks hem the Oilers in their own zone in the last seconds with Rolie at the bench. The Sedins set up Hansen and the game is ours. While the Oilers don’t get embarrassed tonight, they lose another and are nine points behind both their hated rivals in the NW Division.
The Dawg’s Three Stars:
1) Daniel Sedin…two goals and an assist
2) Curtis Sanford…looked confident all night.
3) Janik Hansen…huge hit and two points, assisting on the winner and scoring the final nail.
Unsung Hero… Willie Mitchell was the Hoss tonight.