Back in the saddle
The toughest came from his mother, Edna.
“What are you up to out there?” she giggled after answering her son's call by addressing him with a stern, motherly Tre-vor Lin-den.
“You’ve been keeping a whole bunch of secrets – and it’s probably a good thing, sometimes I let things slip.”
Linden was welcomed to the organization by owner Francesco Aquilini during a press conference at 10:30 a.m. Wednesday morning, but before he faced the media, Linden wanted to again touch base with his parents.
He called them at home in Medicine Hat Tuesday afternoon and was expecting to be questioned up and down about what was going on; after the dismissal of president and general manager Mike Gillis, rumours swirled from Vancouver to Timbuktu that Linden would join Canucks Sports & Entertainment in some capacity.
This was news to Lane and Edna.
“The whole world has an idea that this is coming and they don’t have a clue,” laughed Linden. “No Twitter, no Internet, not a clue, I couldn’t believe it. My mom was just like “hi, how are you, what are you up to?”
When Linden called home on his way to the rink Wednesday, his parents were up to speed.
“Hey Trev,” Lane piped up. “You’ve got to put your mom on the payroll as a scout for the junior league in southern Alberta. What’s a fair rate for that?”
“Given that she’s got all that experience, you watched me for a bunch of years and you’re still watching, you definitely wouldn’t be at the bottom of the pay scale, I know that,” laughed Linden. “I’ll see what I can do.”
“I could be near the top actually,” Edna said in jest.
“Just don’t make a bad call or I’ll have to fire you…” he responded, chuckling.
Safe to say the new Canucks president wasn’t overly nervous heading into his first day on the job.
Linden was surprisingly relaxed during the drive to the rink, as well as when he made the rounds before team practice visiting the coaches, trainers, players and Canucks employees; it was as if he had imagined doing the welcome tour a thousand times before.
Turns out he had. Working for the Canucks in some capacity was always the plan, Linden revealed.
“I was never going to work for another club, I knew that, so I had one option and I was fine with that,” said the 43-year-old. “At this stage in my life, this is a great challenge and having a great challenge in your life is a positive, it comes with some drawbacks, obviously that’s part of it because nothing is easy, but it’s just the right thing and that’s why I feel so good about it.
“Opportunities that are this special don’t come around too often. So I gave it great consideration and it didn’t take me long to recognize this is something I have to do.”
Although Vancouver has loved the former Canucks captain since Pat Quinn drafted him second overall in the 1988 NHL Entry Draft, Linden scoffed at media reports his hiring was a PR move to appease fans.
Linden hasn’t shied away from defending why he’s the right man for the job.
“I was in the game professionally for 20 years, 15 years with the NHLPA and I’ve always felt I have a great passion for the game and love for the game. I feel I’ve got a very common sense approach, I’m able to understand things quickly and I think at the end of the day, I’m not perfect, but I’ve got pretty good judgment. Those things are going to serve me well, I’ve never spent a day in an NHL office as an executive, so I’ve got a lot to learn, but I’ve always felt that I’m a good learner.”
As Linden pulled into the parking garage at Rogers Arena, his mom offered up a final piece of advice: “Surround yourself with good people and the pressure won’t be stacked on one guy.”
Linden’s first duty is to hire a general manager for the Canucks and he said he has an idea of the type of person he wants in that role; when exactly a GM will be named remains to be seen.
If anyone knows a thing or two about GMs though, it’s Linden. He was drafted by one of the best in Canucks history and he considers Pat Quinn a close friend and a mentor.
Linden called Quinn shortly after he got off the line with his parents. Although the conversation was private, Linden definitely thanked Quinn for taking a chance on him many moons ago.
“I’m thankful that when Pat walked to the podium in 1988 that he said my name, and 26 years later I’m still enjoying this drive across the Burrard street bridge with the sun coming up. It’s pretty cool.
“That’s why I never wanted to play anywhere else and that’s why I never wanted to work anywhere else in hockey; Vancouver, any way you cut it, is one of the great cities in the world to live. For me, I’ve always felt that I was so lucky to be here for as long as I was and I really mean that. Most players, if they spend three or four years in a city, they’re lucky. I had 16 of the 20 years as a professional here. I’m grateful.
“Now I’m back in a new role and with the same goal. As a player, you dream of winning the Stanley Cup. It didn’t happen for me, I came close, but to have that opportunity again is special. It’s in your blood; it’s in your DNA. That’s a big part of it.”
A new chapter in the story of Trevor Linden and the Vancouver Canucks is officially being penned.