Tag Archives: Trevor Linden


by Ron Spence

Detroit knows how to treat its icons. In 1994 a Barry Sanders mural was attached to the Cadillac Tower Building, sponsored by NIKE. But, five years later, the building went into foreclosure and was remodeled.


After the renovations, Nextel Communications Inc. completed a mural of Steve Yzerman, at the same location as the former Sanders’ pic.

It was painted by Oregon-based artists, Art Pastusak and Jason Coatney, and depicts Yzerman bent at the waist resting his hockey stick on his thighs. The mural reads, “Born: Cranbrook, BC, 1965. Adopted: Detroit, MI, 1983. Steve Yzerman, over 600 goals, three Stanley Cup Championships and more than 16 years as captain.”

“We listened to Red Wings fans and are extremely excited to bring the new Yzerman image to the city of Detroit,” commented Glen Flowers, Midwest area vice president for Nextel. “This mural is a tribute to hockey’s greatest fans as well as to Steve Yzerman, Detroit’s hockey legend.”


Anyone who would like to commission a Trevor mural may contact ARIANNE VENUSO AT 630/875-5105.



by Ron Spence

If anyone in Canucks’ history deserves to have his number retired, it’s Trevor Linden.

His number will be retired on December 17th and his sweater will hang beside Stan Smyl’s.

Linden finished his career, having played 1138 games – with 318 goals and 415 assists for a total of 733 points. This was 23 behind Markus Naslund for the all time Canucks’ total points.

The Canucks have been far too frugal with their numbers.

They have forgotten Smyl’s old linemate and Canucks’ European scout – for a decade and a half – Thomas Gradin.

The likeable Swede was Vancouver’s leading scorer in both the 1980–81 and the 1981–82 seasons. He was their leading playoff scorer in four playoffs, but most important in their 1982 run to the Cup finals, when he had 19 points in 17 games (He had scored 37 goals that season.).


courtesy of en.wikipedia.org

He was the Canucks’ assist leader for three seasons, and still holds the Canucks’ career points by a centre (550). He is also still tied with Markus Naslund for the most career hat-tricks.

Gradin was Vancouver’s MVP for the 1978-79 season, the Canucks’ Molson Cup winner (1982-83), and the Viking Award Winner for the best Swede in the NHL in 1982.

But most important to Canucks’ fans today, he was the man who discovered future star defenseman, Alex Edler in the wilds of Sweden, and was instrumental in persuading Brian Burke to draft the Sedin twins.

Now, Gradin’s accomplishments as a scout won’t count towards the retirement of his number, but it’s the proverbial icing on the cake of his illustrious career as a Canuck.

P.S. The only problem is that # 23 is now Alexander Edler’s number, but I am sure that he would give it up for the man who discovered him.


Thomas Gradin’s statistics courtesy of:  eurohockey.net

Ron Spence


by Ron Spence

I was sitting in the GM Place press box the night that Todd Bertuzzi attacked Steve Moore. I was also at the game the night that Big Bert pummeled Eric Messier’s head into the ice.

As well, I saw Todd Bertuzzi at his best – on many nights.

I saw both the ying and the yang that is Todd Bertuzzi.

Todd Bertuzzi still has the talent to be the league’s top power forward.

But, there are a number of hinderences: the distractions of the Steve Moore court case; Todd’s temperament; and the difficulty of playing on the edge – night in and night out.

So, weighing his pluses and minuses, how will Todd Bertuzzi do this season?

I think brilliantly.


There is one great factor in his favour – Mike Keenan.

Mike Keenan has always coveted Bertuzzi’s brutish quality.

He traded for Bertuzzi when he was with the Islanders. And Keenan again traded for him, when he was the Panthers’ coach.

The trade didn’t work in his favour, however.

Luongo flourished in Vancouver and came second only to Martin Brodeur for the Vezina.

Bertuzzi, on the other hand, was injured while he was in Florida, and later traded to Detroit.

Since the trade, Keenan has been constantly slagged for the infamous swap.

From Florida, someone wrote:

Other detractors wrote:

Keenan had always defended his trade:

I covered the Canucks when Bertuzzi played for Vancouver, and I also covered the Canucks while Mike Keenan was their head coach.

And one thing that I can say, is that Mike Keenan doesn’t like being wrong.

So, he will council and cajole the Bertuzzi man-child. He will patiently reshape him again into being an NHL All-star.

And, then he can say, “That’s the player I traded for. I wasn’t wrong!”


Mike Keenan has been blamed for another trade.

In Chicago, he traded Dominic Hasek to Buffalo for Stephane Beauregard and Buffalo’s 4th round choice (Eric Daze) in the 1993 Entry Draft, August 7, 1992.

But, he has made some good trades. In St. Louis, he acquired Pavol Demitra from  Ottawa for Christer Olsson, November 27, 1996.

In Vancouver, Keenan acquired Todd Bertuzzi and Bryan McCabe, with the NY Islanders’ 3rd round choice (Jarkko Ruutu) in the 1998 Entry Draft, for Trevor Linden, on February 6, 1998.


by Ron Spence

The Canucks have been an NHL team for some 38 seasons.

During a third of the franchise’s history, they had a treadmill of captains.

One season, 1974-75, they were without a captain. In 1990-91, their three captains were Dan Quinn, Doug Lidster and Trevor Linden. Andre Boudrias (1975-76) and Chris Oddleifson (1976-77) wore “the C” for one season. Don Lever was captain for two campaigns (1977-79), Messier for three seasons (1997-2000), and Orland Kurtenbach (1970-74) for four seasons.

Of the three remaining captains – Stan Smyl, Trevor Linden, and Markus Naslund – whose captaincy was of the longest duration?

No, it’s not Trevor Linden. He was the captain for only six years (1991-97), and then gave up the captaincy to Mark Messier.

The answer is Stan Smyl.

Had I written – Who was the Captain for the most seasons, it would have technically been a tie. Both the Steamer (1982-90) and Markus (2000-2008) were captains for eight seasons.

But, Stan wore “the C” for more games. Markus was captain for eight seasons, but one of them was during the lockout year.

Also, Smyl wore “the C” for the 1982 run for the Stanley Cup – before he had been named the Canucks’ captain (In the spring of 1982, Kevin McCarthy had broken his ankle, and Number 14 had assumed his position.).

And, of Stan Smyl’s eight years, he was the captain for the full twelve months – handing over “the C” to Quinn, Lidster, and Linden just before the following season began.

Markus, on the other hand, became the captain on September 15, 2000, and gave it up when he signed with the Rangers this past July.


by Ron Spence

Vancouver wasn’t always a hockey hotbed.

A quarter of a century after hockey was highly popular in eastern Canada, many Vancouver fans still hadn’t see a game.

“Most of [opening night fans] had never seen a hockey game before, but they became ardent enthusiasts long before the finish,”The Province wrote in 1912.

Vancouver supporters remained enthusiastic as the Millionaires (later called the Maroons) became a winning team. They took the PCHA titles in 1915, 1919, 1921 and 1923, and played for the Stanley Cup in 1915, 1918, 1921, 1922, 1923 and 1924.

They won Lord Stanley their first try, in 1915, but never again.



Vancouver fans were deprived of great hockey when the coast league folded in 1926, but the semi-pro PCHL circuit (which was renamed the North West Hockey League in 1933, and re-renamed the Pacific Coast Hockey League in 1936) premiered two years later. The new Vancouver Lions won five titles in thirteen years, before folding in 1941 (The Vancouver Forum was built prior to the 1934-35 season, but had only 3500 seats. When the Denman Arena burnt down in 1936, it became Vancouver’s premier rink.).

A new team, the Canucks started playing after the War. Continuing the tradition of the Millionaires and Lions, the Canucks won the PCHL Championship their second season in the league. In 1953, the PCHL and the Western Canada Senior Hockey Leagues merged and formed the Western Hockey League. The Canucks won the championship Lester Patrick Cup in 1958, 1960, 1969 and 1970.

Vancouver fans supported their minor league Canucks, but still wanted a Big Tent team of their own. They were disappointed when the NHL doubled in 1967, without including a Vancouver franchise.

But, they optimistically built the 16,000-seat Pacific Coliseum, which housed the WHL’s Canucks for two and one-half years.


THE PACIFIC COLISEUM - courtesy of http://www.vancouver2010.com

Finally, Vancouver along with Buffalo, were admitted to the NHL in 1970 for a $6 million fee. Norman “Bud” Poile was named the Canucks’ first GM, and Hal Laycoe their inaugural coach.

Vancouver’s first NHL game was held on October 9, 1970 against the L.A. Kings. The game was broadcast on the CBC and Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau, Premier W.A.C. Bennett, and NHL President Clarence Campbell attended. The NHL Canucks lost their first contest 3-1, but beat Toronto 5-3 two nights later.

Vancouver finished their first season with 24 wins and 56 points, placing them ahead of California and Detroit in the standings. As would be the case for most of the franchise’s history, Vancouver finished near the bottom of the league, but never low enough to take that year’s best draft picks. Montreal had traded for California’s pick, and took Guy Lafleur, while Detroit selected Marcel Dionne. Vancouver would take Jocelyn Guevremont.

Their second season, the Canucks finished with only 20 wins and 48 points, a franchise low. The team continued to falter, and by 1981 the Canucks had yet to win more than one playoff game in a series, let alone a series.



But then things changed in 1982. With players like goalie Richard Brodeur, Tiger Williams, Thomas Gradin, Stan Smyl and Ivan Boldirev the Canucks went to the Stanley Cup finals, before being swept by the New York Islanders.

Vancouver had beaten Calgary, Los Angeles and Chicago to get a sniff of the Cup.

During the Blackhawks’ series, Vancouver coach Roger Neilson waved a white towel at referee Bob Myers, after a bad call. Tiger Williams and other Canucks then hoisted towels on their sticks, and further taunted the ref. Thus, towel power was created, and Vancouver fans have since waved white flags in support of their team.

Following the series, 100,000 fans lined Vancouver’s streets to salute their parading Canucks. It was twelve years before another parade, however.

Then, led by the offense of Russian-born Pavel Bure, Trevor Linden, Geoff Courtnall, Cliff Ronning and Gus Adams, and the goaltending of Kirk McLean, the Canucks came back from a three to one deficit, to win three overtime games against the Calgary Flames. Next they beat Minnesota and Toronto, to represent the west in the finals.

The Canucks pushed the highly favoured Rangers to seven games, before New York ended their fifty-four year drought to win the Cup. The final 1994 game came down to a faceoff to the right of Mike Richter, with 1.6 seconds left to play.

The Canucks returned to Vancouver at 5:40 the following morning, to tens of thousands of fans.

They were every bit as ardent as the Millionaires’ supporters had been eight decades before.


The above was written for the B.C. Hockey Hall of Fame


by Ron Spence

Will Joe Sakic play another season for the Avalanche?

Will he retire?

(Does he have things to do in Denver?)

We know that he won’t sign to play anywhere else. That’s a given. Burnaby Joe’s loyalty is up there with Steve Yzerman’s.

And as Joe Sakic ponders what to do, I remember a feature which I wrote – for Hockey Illustrated – ironically, about his patience:


If patience is a virtue, Joe Sakic should be a candidate for sainthood.

THE Hockey Scouting Report writes: “Sakic’s most impressive gift is his great patience with the puck. He will hold it until the last minute, when he has drawn the defenders to him and opened up ice, creating…time and space for his linemates.”

Equally impressive is Sakic’s patience off the ice.

First of all, he waited and waited for his team to improve. Finally, after years in the basement, Colorado (formely Quebec) elevated themselves to the penthouse when they won the Stanley Cup in 1996.

Joe also waited for people to recognize his talent. Vancouver’s Dave Babych calls Sakic “the quietest superstar there ever was.” Joe had been fifth in NHL points during the 1990’s, yet didn’t win an NHL award until the Avalanche took the Cup. It was the Conn Smythe Trophy.

And, Joe waited patiently for the financial compensation he rightfully deserved. He recently signed a contract for $21 million, making him one of hockey’s wealthiest players.

Joe Sakic was born in Vancouver, British Columbia, and first caught people’s attention when he played midget hockey. Joe lead his lackluster team to the Air Canada Cup championships. Next, Joe played Major Junior in Swift Current and accumulated 133 points in 72 games the 1986-87 season. Joe was named the WHL East Division Rookie of the Year and was drafted 15th overall by the Quebec Nordiques. He would have been drafted higher, but his size and speed were a concern.

Former junior rival, and Team Canada linemate, Trevor Linden recalls Joe in junior: “Nothing really bothered Joe or got him off his game. He was very solid and a very good two-way player and worked very hard in all the areas of the ice … Joe leads by his actions. He’s just a great player. A good, all-around player. He’s highly-skilled and very quick. He’s got a great shot”

Joe’s next junior season, he accumulated a remarkable 160 points in 64 games and was named the Canadian Major Junior Player of the Year. He also collected a Gold Medal as a member of Canada’s junior team that winter.

But, Joe’s glory seasons in junior were followed by humbling years in Quebec. His first NHL season, Quebec stumbled to a pathetic 27 wins and 46 losses. The 19-year-old was one of the few bright spots with a respectable 62 points in 70 games. The following three seasons, the Nordiques totaled: 12 wins and 61 losses; 16 wins and 50 losses; and 20 wins and 48 losses. Yet, Joe tallied a remarkable 102, 109 and 94 points (That last year, he played in only 69 games.).

Martin Gelinas was briefly Joe’s team-mate in Quebec.

“He’s a great person,” remembers Marty. “A down-to-earth kind of guy. Off-ice he’s got this quality where all the guys like him and want to be with him. And I think he’s one of the top three or four players in the NHL right now. Skill-wise when I played with him, he was unbelievable. He’s a great passer. He’s got great vision. He reads the ice so well. It seems like when he came to Colorado, he stepped it up a notch or two. He became an All-star player. He was a great player before and he’s become one of the best players in the league.”

Jyrki Lumme played against Sakic when he was with Montreal. He describes the difference between Joe then and now: “Now he has better players around him, so he doesn’t have to do everything himself. Back in Quebec, he was pretty much the only guy. When you have a guy like that, and you put some good players with him, he’s going to make everybody so much better.”

Hard work was the major reason for Joe’s improvement. He decided to increase both his speed and strength, after being cut from the 1991 World Cup team. The following summer, he practiced plyometrics. This is a jumping, hopping and bounding technique that builds explosiveness  in the legs.

Canucks’ defenseman Grant Ledyard marvels at Sakic’s speed: “He plays at a very high level. Anyone who can skate as fast as they can go and handle the puck so smoothly as he does, you have to respect. And he’s so level-headed. He holds the puck to the perfect time and he’ll make that great pass. Not many of his passes will get knocked down or taken away. He puts it where he should. In the last minutes of the game, he makes great plays. Whether they’re down or they’re up. He’s just a great, great player.”

The 5’11”, 185 pound Sakic also built himself into one of the league’s strongest (pound for pound) players. He can bench press more than 300, and squat more than 400 pounds.

Goalie Corey Hirsch notes Sakic’s toughness: “Joey is very hard-nosed and quick. He’s got a quick release. If the puck’s in the corner, he’s hard after it. He doesn’t let you beat him to it. When he’s got the puck, it’s off his stick. Boom! Smart! He’s a really good hockey player.”

Jyrki Lumme agrees: “He’s just a great talent and he plays the price too. He really wants to be the best, just like Paul Kariya. They’re not the biggest guys, but they don’t give up. A great talent level with a great work ethic. You can’t ask anything more. They get their noses dirty. They don’t give up the puck just because the other guy might be bigger. They battle for the puck with their skills and speed.”

Joe also worked on his two-way game. Brian Bellows played against Sakic when he was with the Canadiens. “He’s a supreme offensive player who’s really developed his defensive skills,” Bellows says. “One of the all around best players in league.”

Another reason for Joe’s improvement was his international experience. This was because Quebec was at the bottom of the league, and didn’t make the playoffs most years. So, Joe was selected to represent his country. One post-season, he helped Canada win the Silver Medal by scoring 11 points in 10 games. Two years later, he helped Canada finish fourth, and the year after that he led Canada to the Gold Medal.

Finally, Quebec started to turn things around. Their high draft picks, plus the players they received for Eric Lindros were paying off. The Nords achieved 47 wins and 27 losses and Joe had 105 points. But, the next year, Joe had 92 points and Quebec fell to 34 wins and 42 losses.

Then, the strike-shortened season, Quebec rebounded to an impressive 30 and 13 record and Joe tallied 62 points in 47 games. Also, in the playoffs against New York, Joe scored two game-winning goals and had a third called back.

Things turned around completely by the following summer, when Marcel Aubut sold the Nordiques to Comsat Corp. Then, the Colorado management traded for: veteran characters Claude Lemieux and Mike Keane, offensive defenseman Sandis Ozolinsh and all-star goalie Patrick Roy. The result was 47 wins and 25 losses.

That was also the season that Joe’s play really came together. Joe tallied 120 points and was behind only Mario Lemieux and Jaromir Jagr in the scoring race. But, more important, Sakic played his best against the better teams, and was second in league in short-handed goals.

Arturs Irbe explains why Sakic can be such a force: “An explosive guy. Very quick hands. An unbelievable release. His shot is the shortest snapshot I’ve seen and the hardest one. He might not have the hardest shot in the league but the quickest release. I don’t know if there’s anybody better to get the shot off, and it’s comparable to a slap shot.”

“What happens is he holds onto the puck, and knowing he has the fast release, you always have to be in the right position and far out enough to make a stop. And he waits and waits and he keeps you on edge. And then he passes, and a often there’s no time to recover and to get to the pass, and if it’s a one-timer, a lot of times it’s in. He keeps you on edge all the time.”

In the playoffs, Sakic scored 18 goals and 16 points in 22 games (He was within one goal of the all-time, single-season mark for playoff goals. He also set a playoff record with six game-winning goals.). Colorado won the Cup and Joe received 9 out of 10 first place votes to win the Conn Smythe Trophy.

“He went to a new level of leadership,” coach Mark Crawford told Damien Cox. “We added some experienced guys who had won … and I think they really helped Joe’s game. They showed him there’s more than one way to lead … He sensed those guys knew when it was time to crank it up and when to rise to the occasion, and that’s what we got from him.”

Last season (1996-97), Sakic was hampered by injury and played in only 65 games. He tallied 74 points.

But, Joe played well in the playoffs, scoring 8 goals and 17 assists in 17 games. Once again, Sakic’s patience had paid off.

A patience that will guarantee him sainthood in the Hockey Hall of Fame.