Retiring 16.

M~ p08sa73b/16p/bw/hug

I fell in love with hockey and the Canucks during their 1994 Stanley-cup run. I was 20 then, and I still remember vividly how all of my friends were trying to grow a playoff beard while watching the games at Red Robin’s on Broadway and Oak Street. I remember having to fly out of town for my summer vacation prior to the fifth game in the Leaf series. It was a long flight, and when the plane landed, the first thing the pilot said on the radio was the Canucks defeated the Maple Leafs and will be in the Stanley Cup Finals again after 12 long years.

Those were the days when hockey was such a big part of any Vancouverite’s life. Many years have passed, players came and went, but that 1994 Canucks team is special. I guess every hockey fan or sports fan for that matter, has their own version of that “immortalized” team in their heart, and for me, that’s the team.

I was a rookie hockey fan during that time, and I think looking back, I wasn’t really able to fully appreciate how big it was for the team to be in the finals. I just remember jumping out of my seat screaming everytime I saw Bure flying through the neutral zone and deking out everyone for one of his spectacular goal, the excitement and joy after the OT win against Calgary, and the heartbreaking sorrow for our exit in New York. I have never felt that way about sport, or maybe, about anything. That’s how I fell in love with hockey.

Yesterday, the Canucks celebrated the retiring of Linden’s jersey, and watching the Opening Video on the web really brought back a lot of memories. Trevor Linden was always my second all-time-favorite Canuck, I must admit, slightly after Bure. But he always have that leadership presence on the ice, and although he never put up excellent numbers, I was actually happier to see him score goals than seeing Bure scores. I remember hating Mike Keenan for trading away our captain, and then subsequently feeling sorry about the dark years Linden endure during his trips in New York, Montreal and Washington.

After six seasons away from home, it was heart-warming to see Linden returns home, and although his role or importance were no longer the same, he remained graceful and supportive standing beside Canuck’s new heroes in Naslund, Morrison and Bertuzzi. With the experience Linden brought to the team, I really thought that we were going somewhere during the West Coast Express era. I guess it’s just another regret that our team wasn’t able to seize the opportunity to bring home the cup during Linden’s return to the team.

Now Linden will never win a Stanely Cup as a player, but perhaps his attachment to the town, to the team and to the organization will bring further opportunities for him in the future in Vancouver. Who knows, maybe he can still win the Cup for our home town, as a GM or a coach, maybe?? But I hope we don’t have to wait that long to get our first Stanley Cup.

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