While a student at Prestwood Elementary School back home in Medicine Hat, Alberta, Trevor Linden’s visits to the school library involved locating a particular hockey book.

While gazing at the glossy photos of past and present stars of the game, Linden dreamt about becoming one himself. A photo of a grinning, toothless Bobby Clarke complete with cut dripping blood down the side of his face made the deepest impact on the young Linden. That’s what a hockey player should look like, he thought. (When someone drew ink teardrops down Clarke’s cheeks, he vowed vengeance for the desecration of his hockey idol. He never found the culprit.)

It’s an interesting tale when one considers his place today as perhaps BC’s most universally beloved and revered athlete of all-time. For over a decade, in school libraries all over this province young children have dreamt their own dreams while gazing at an iconic photo of a battered, exhausted Linden with arm around goaltender Kirk McLean during the 1994 Stanley Cup Finals. The next generation is in good hands. It’s hard to fathom a better role model on and off the ice than the man acknowledged as the ultimate Captain Canuck.

Early on, Linden’s hockey world revolved around the Medicine Hat Tigers, his earliest memory a game-used Tigers puck his grandparents gave him. Protected by the Tigers at age twelve, Linden played his first junior game with his hometown heroes at fifteen. He helped the Tigers to two straight Memorial Cup championships in 1987 and 1988. His play earned selection to the national junior team at the 1988 world junior championships in Moscow helping Canada to gold.

Drafted second overall by the Canucks in 1988, few could have foreseen Linden’s impact in quickly becoming the face of a struggling franchise. Within three years Linden became the Canucks’ youngest-ever captain holding the title for seven seasons and the club’s fortunes were on the upswing. Linden recorded six thirty-goal seasons, the Canucks rattled off back-to-back Smythe Division titles and made the playoffs six straight seasons.

The highlight of course was leading the Canucks to within a goalpost of the Stanley Cup in Game Seven of the 1994 Cup Finals. Scoring two goals while playing through broken ribs and torn rib cartilage in one of sport’s most pressure-packed situations, Linden singlehandedly carried a tired, injured and underdog hockey club on his back. It might just rank as the greatest championship final game performance by any athlete representing a BC team.

Later, Linden represented Canada at the 1996 World Cup of Hockey and the 1998 Olympic Winter Games. He also served as NHLPA president, a key figure in navigating the 2004-05 lockout. After short stints in New York, Montreal, and Washington, Linden returned home to Vancouver in 2001 and stayed until his emotional 2008 retirement. His jersey was only the second retired in club history.

During his career, Linden rewrote the Canucks’ record book, amassing 867 points in 1382 regular season games and adding 99 points in 124 playoff games. His prodigious off-ice efforts for community charity organizations are unmatched, leaving an indelible mark in the hearts of many British Columbians.

Written and researched by Jason Beck, Curator of the BC Sports Hall of Fame.