Wednesday, April 9, 2014

From Captain Canuck to President Canuck - Welcome Back, #16

Despite my love for the sport, I don’t often blog about hockey.  The sports blogosphere is already overfull of armchair-types who spend too much time watching and not enough time playing.  But today is an exception.

It has never been easy to be a Vancouver Canucks fan.  And it has been even less easy to be a Vancouver Canucks fan living outside of Vancouver, as I have been for most of my life.  Aside from being woeful at playing hockey for most of my youth, the Canucks were also prone to questionable design decisions regarding their uniforms, being on the losing end of nearly every trade they made, and having a nickname that conveniently rhymes with “suck.”  You know you have it bad, when even your high school computer science teacher would talk smack about your favourite team…

Things started to get a little easier in 1988, when the Canucks drafted Trevor Linden.  This was before the internet, blogs and twitter made everything so much more instantly researchable.  I didn’t watch him play major junior, I didn’t know anything about his play in the Memorial Cup.  Nothing.  All I knew was that the Canucks had drafted a really good prospect who could maybe help the team turn things around.

Six years later, the Canucks were in the Stanley Cup Final, and Trevor Linden had cemented his place as my favourite professional athlete ever.

It’s difficult to love and hate sports figures as a grown adult.  Each year broadens your perspective and introduces you to other things that make sports so much less important to you than they used to be.  But in 1994, at the age of 17, nothing mattered more to me than that Canucks team, and no player on that team mattered more to me than #16.

Today, Trevor Linden was named President of the Vancouver Canucks.

It’s a great PR move.  I’m far from the only Canucks fan to put Linden on a pedestal.  Trevor Linden could say that he wanted to invade Ukraine, and half the Lower Mainland would be ready to throw the first molitov cocktail.  At a time when the team is imploding, and the Vancouver fanbase, replete with bandwagon-jumpers, is waffling on their season-ticket decisions, nobody can secure that season ticket revenue better than Linden can.

But is it a great hockey move?  There is a lot of noise on Twitter and likely more than a few articles being written that will decry Linden’s lack of hockey management experience.  That’s not a fact to be argued with.  He has none.  There is no way to deny it:  This isn’t the best hockey move the team can make.

The thing is, it doesn’t have to be.

Being a Canucks fan has always required a nearly absurd amount of faith, belief, and optimism.  Noone has ever answered that better than Trevor Linden. 

And even then, we still fell one goal-post short of winning it all with him.

Nonetheless, we all remember that team, and we all remember Linden as the guy who scored two goals in Game 7 of the Cup Final while playing with broken ribs.

The Canucks, as a franchise, are a mess.  They’ve traded away two all-star caliber goalies in two years for pennies on the dollar.  They’re built around an increasingly fragile and aging core, with too little depth.  Their coach may be a certifiable lunatic with no idea as to how he should play his roster.  If Linden needs time to fix this mess, time to learn how to be an NHL executive, the fans will give him that time – he’s earned it more than anybody.

In today’s Vancouver Province, Jason Botchford suggested that Canucks fans would rather lose with Linden than win with somebody else.  That’s a ridiculous statement.  Canucks fans want to win.  And there is nobody else in the world we want to win with more than Trevor Linden.

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