Growing up, I wanted to be like Spiderman, Batman, and a few other caped wonders. But by the time I was 8, no matter what people thought of their sweaters, I wanted to wear gold, black and orange.
In Part One, my trailer park youth was unearthed, as well as roots tracing my passion for hockey, and in particular, the Vancouver Canucks. Two of my heroes, Tony Tanti and Stan Smyl were revealed, and the 3 other influences are as follows:
Though I missed out on Stan Smyl’s best year as a Canuck, I was front and center for Patrik’s finest moments. One of the Canucks’ few late draft round gems (175th overall, 1980) Patrik was a pure playmaker. I often wondered, had the draft gone differently, who would’ve paired better with Wayne Gretzky, Jari Kurri or Patrik Sundstrom. I recall a no-look, spin around pass where he found Tanti flying into the high slot, and Tanti roofing it top shelf over Grant Fuhr’s blocker. It was done. From that moment on, a play-making center had new criteria to meet: Slick passing, fantastic vision, and deft deke maneuvers.
“King” Richard Brodeur
If you were to ask my 2nd Grade teacher, Ms. Webster, who my idol was, she might joke and say it was either a stand-up comic, or Richard Brodeur. My beige colored Hilroy notebooks were adorned with all sorts of Brodeur poses, -from kick saves, to diving poke-checks, and my fave, the patented glove save, nearly doing the “splits”. His heroics in the 1983-84 playoffs cemented him in Canucks legend, and to this day, is often referred to only as King Richard. Drafted 97th overall by the New York Islanders, the Canucks benefited from the Islanders backlog in goal, with Billy Smith and Chico Resch in front of him on the depth chart. Ironically, he would face the team that drafted him, during the Canucks’ improbable Stanley Cup run. My heart sank a little when, three days prior to the 1983 All-Star game he had been selected to start in, he suffered an ear injury in Toronto, and could not play. He gave Vancouver fans nearly 8 years of exciting goaltending excellence. Long live the King.
If I could only use four words to describe my hero, Trevor Linden: Twenty years of excellence. The 1988 Entry Draft only saw one player drafted higher (Mike Modano), and the Minnesota North Stars had a huge decision at that. His body of work with the Medicine Hat Tigers had scouts drooling, as the tall, lanky, but skilled pivot helped the Tigers win two consecutive Memorial Cup trophies. I could go on at length with accolades, but mainly his drive and determination won the hearts of countless individuals. Coupling that with his humanitarian spirit, humble nature, and leadership through example, I couldn’t help but marvel. For me, though there have been some greats, no one person in hockey has moved me the way he has. Though it broke my heart to see it end the way it did, 1993-94 Stanley Cup Finals forever etched Linden into the annals of Vancouver legend. Love him or leave him, no one can deny that Trevor Linden is all heart; he will always remain my favorite Canuck.