<table width=80% align=center border=0><tr><td><img src=http://cdn.nhl.com/canucks/images/upload/2007/09/henderson_headshot.jpg align=left hspace=4>There were things to enjoy in the Canucks’ victory over the Stars on the weekend: the nine point performance of the Markus-Mo-Matt line; Willie “Timex” Mitchell – he takes a licking and keeps on ticking – battling and bleeding profusely enough to warrant admiration from Don Cherry; the crabby, frustrated expression on Marty Turco’s face at not being allowed to start the game. And the return to the ice of an old favourite.
I was chatting with a woman sitting next to me during the interval a couple of weeks ago. She, like many Vancouverites, had a story to tell about Trevor Linden: how she had experienced the sad illness of a loved one, how Trevor had become involved with her fundraising cause, generously offering signed hockey merchandise, as well as his time and emotional support. What this woman wanted to know was why, in what is probably his final season playing for the Canucks, Trevor was spending so much time as a healthy scratch and not out on the ice, especially for home games?
<img src=http://cdn.nhl.com/canucks/images/upload/2008/02/02072008_atlanta11_t.jpg border=0 align=right vspace=1 hspace=4></a>Yeah, yeah – a bunch of loyal fans still remember the day that the impossibly fresh-faced rookie pulled on a Canucks jersey for the first time, remember the weary but determined warrior from the 1994 run. I understand that we, and our precious memories, have no pull with the coaching staff. But Trevor hardly seems like a giant liability. He may not be the force he once was, but he still sees the ice well and thinks the game like a cagey veteran. More importantly he almost never puts his team in harm’s way, which cannot be said for some of his younger teammates. And, as my seatmate pointed out, he is gold in the shootout (probably because he is so old school that he confuses the current crop of young opposing goalies – no fancy dekes, no spinneramas, just plain old straight-up skate and shoot).
<img src=http://cdn.nhl.com/canucks/images/upload/2007/08/aug2107_linden02_t.jpg border=0 align=left vspace=1 hspace=4></a>And, if Saturday’s game in Dallas is any indication, Trevor has not forgotten how to be a leader. He is no longer expected to score each and every night but is in the unique position of being able to advise those who are. Whatever he said during the pre-game, closed-door meeting was the thing his teammates needed to hear, perhaps because the message was delivered by one of their own who had been observing the team but not coaching it. Other teams have managed the presence of an aging veteran player who desperately wants to win the Stanley Cup. Heck, some teams have even succeeded in making said veteran the catalyst for the drive to team victory. So I say let a little nostalgia rule the day for the final home games of the season, and let the fans enjoy their last chance to stand and cheer good old Number 16.