Number One in Our Hearts
Travis Paterson and Ellen Niemer
Trevor Linden talks about his life on the ice as a Canuck and off the ice as a philanthropist and competitive cyclist.
Vancouver’s GM Place is an empty cavern in the early morning hours before the hometown Canucks take to the ice for their pregame practice. Despite playing the Minnesota Wild the night before, Trevor Linden has agreed to meet with alive before lacing up his skates.
Modest and unassuming, Linden chats easily with everyone he meets and immediately puts people at ease. These qualities have won him legions of devoted fans and have earned him the respect of players, management, and league officials during his 19-year National Hockey League (NHL) career.
Linden’s come a long way from his childhood in Medicine Hat, Alberta, where he grew up playing hockey and idolizing “his” team, the Medicine Hat Tigers. Linden began his hockey career with the Tigers in 1985, following in the footsteps of NHLers and former Tigers Lanny McDonald and Kelly Hrudey.
Linden arrived in Vancouver in 1988 a fresh-faced, 18-year-old after being drafted by the Canucks in the first round of the NHL Entry Draft, chosen second overall. Over the years, Linden’s contributions have helped to turn a dismal Canucks team into a respectable hockey club that made believers of hopeless fans in a passionate hockey town.
Linden says that the highlight of his hockey career was beating the Toronto Maple Leafs in the 1994 semifinals before going on to face the New York Rangers in the Stanley Cup finals. As team captain, Linden scored the only two Canuck goals in a heartbreaking game-seven loss.
This season, however, as Linden nears the end of his NHL career, he has adjusted to a different role. Under Canucks’ coach Alain Vigneault, Linden, who now wears the “A” as Assistant Captain, has spent more time on the bench than he’d like. He admits it was difficult to adjust.
“I’ve sat in the press box; played on the first power play line; played on the first, second, third, and fourth lines,” he says. “I always try to see the positive in whatever situation I’m in.”
Linden loves to discuss the intricacies of the game of hockey, especially with the younger players on the team. During a game when he’s not on the ice, he can be found on the bench sitting beside a younger player, such as Alexandre Burrows, discussing plays. When asked if he’d like to coach one day, Linden is unsure. At this point, he hasn’t decided what he wants to do when he retires–hockey is but one option.
As well known for his benevolence as for his hockey heroics, Linden became involved in charity work as a Canuck rookie; he learned early on that the Canuck organization believes their players should be involved in the community.
“This franchise believes in giving back–in a meaningful way–so when you play here you become a part of that,” Linden says. “As much as I’ve given, I’ve gotten back.”
Linden considers every visit with children in the community an opportunity to share the gift he’s been given as a hockey player. “When I walk into a room and it makes a child’s day, I know that’s something that my brother can’t do, but that I can as a Canuck. I try to do
as much as I can because when I retire,” Linden says modestly, “no one will remember who I am.”
Linden teamed up with Cadillac Fairview to sponsor the Cadillac Fairview Trevor Linden Invitational Golf Tournament from 2003 to 2005. The tournament raised $600,000 to build the Cadillac Fairview Trevor Linden Gymnasium, an indoor facility for the children at Camp Goodtimes, a summer camp sponsored by the Canadian Cancer Society for children and teens living with cancer.
Since then, Linden has paid regular visits to the camp. Says David MacKenzie, manager of Canadian Cancer Society Camps, “It’s one thing to show up and say hi to the kids, but he’s really quite involved, getting dressed up and playing along–a really, really nice guy.”
While most of Linden’s time is devoted to other organizations, he still runs the Trevor Linden Foundation, a charitable organization he started in 1995. With such strong ties to the community, Linden confirms that Vancouver is the last stop in his NHL career. “This is home,” he says.
Linden and his wife, Cristina, have lived in Kits Point since 1991. Cristina, who grew up in Burnaby, BC, is the owner-operator of a clothing boutique in Yaletown called Basquiat.
Linden admires his wife’s dietary discipline. “Cristina is extremely conscious of what she eats. She’s actually eliminated wheat, sugar, dairy, and coffee from her diet,” he says. The results have impressed Linden, who’s begun to gravitate towards the diet at home but admits to being more relaxed about his diet when travelling with the team.
“My biggest challenge is that I want to be healthy and fit when I’m finished playing hockey,” Linden says. From his home in Kits, Linden regularly crosses the Lions Gate Bridge to Vancouver’s North Shore where he enjoys life out of the public eye as a passionate cyclist, trail runner, and cross-country skier.
A late bloomer in the world of cycling, Linden credits Cristina for introducing him to biking and skiing. He has competed locally in several races, including the Test of Metal, a demanding 67-km (42-mi), cross-country mountain bike race in Squamish.
Last summer, Trevor headed to Europe with his riding partner, John Ramsden, to compete in the TransAlps series. “It’s an eight-day stage race that started with a couple of days in Germany, then wove through Austria, and finished with three or four days in Italy,” says Linden. They finished 48th in their class of 111 cyclists.
Linden’s off-season fitness regimen doesn’t end there–one of his favourite things is swimming. “I’m not a great swimmer, but I get my laps in.” During the 2004/05 NHL lockout season, Linden took lessons from Paul Cross, a triathlete who teaches out of the Vancouver YMCA.
It’s logical to think that Linden’s interests in running, swimming, and biking could lead to a triathlon, but Linden foresees the TransRockies Challenge mountain bike race as a
more likely event in his future.
Whatever Linden’s future holds, he will remain one of the most beloved hockey players to ever lace up skates in Vancouver, and his legacy–on and off the ice–is proof of that.
Among the many organizations Linden has assisted over his career are: