When Trevor Linden was first named President of Hockey Operations, the initial reaction was primarily positive. Vancouver fans were overjoyed to have the most popular player in Canuck history back in the organization, because if anyone could turn the organization around, it seemed it would be Captain Canuck.
But after the euphoria of having Linden back in the Canuck organization died down, some concern arose as to whether he had the necessary qualifications to be effective in his position. Some people became nervous, because the team is in disarray and can’t afford to have someone else in upper management underperform.
The consensus is that the team has been badly managed over the last couple of years, and in a short period of time has spiralled from an elite team to one that has now regressed to hoping to make the playoffs. This team needs all the help it can get, and as much as people want Linden around, they still aren’t sure it should be in his new position.
Well, let’s take a look at that.
Linden’s New Role In Vancouver
Everybody is familiar with Trevor Linden’s history on the ice, but now begins his new tenure with the Vancouver Canucks as President of Hockey Operations. Often that is confused with President, which is usually the title given to the owner. In the Canuck’s case they don’t have a President, they are owned by the Aquilini Investment Group and headed by Francesco Aquilini, who has the title of Chairman & Governor, NHL.
Linden’s new job places him directly between Aquilini and the as yet to be named General Manager, if you were looking for him on a positional chart. Often Trevor’s title is described as an advisory position that assumes little to no direct responsibility for team decisions.
But in this case I believe that is completely inaccurate, as it seems clear that Aquilini values Linden’s opinion a great deal, and is counting on him to be an objective guide. Francesco really wants to avoid dealing with hockey matters directly, so through Linden he can provide necessary input, and a decision for the greater good can be reached.
Think of Linden as a voice of reason and a sounding board should things get emotional during a crisis, or a difficult negotiation. He will bridge the gap between ownership and management with logic and a calm demeanor, and that kind of buffer can be extremely valuable.
With the position more clearly defined, it becomes easier to identify the ideal type of person to fill it, so let’s examine the person more closely.
The Character of Trevor Linden
Although it may seem backwards, the foundation of a team starts at the top. A team is going to be a direct reflection of the type of people who build it, because character, like water, flows downhill. Your team’s upper management and what they stand for as people will seep into the players like the air they breathe.
As an example, look no further that the L.A. Raiders of the NFL. They were led by Al Davis, who was considered a devious, lying cheater who built dirty teams and at this point haven’t made the playoffs since 2002. And how about the mess the L.A. Clippers are in now? Do you really think that kind of thing doesn’t impact the players?
Ask yourself honestly, would you really want to be part of a travelling gong show like that? I think it would be impossible to be involved in that kind of scenario and not have it affect your performance on whatever surface you play on.
Linden, on the other hand, is a living monument to how a person should conduct themselves. The amount of recognition he has received for work he’s done off the ice almost embarrasses the rest of us in the population to try and become better people.
When he was still a player, he was known for frequent visits to B.C. Children’s Hospital and started and annual golf tournament to raise money for them. And of course, he often led a charge to Canuck Place, which is a hospice for terminally ill children. Sometimes there were cameras present, most of the time there were not.
A quick look into his past tells us a great deal. He was awarded the Order of British Columbia, which recognized him as a hockey player and praised him as a Humanitarian. He also won the King Clancy Memorial Trophy, and the NHL Foundation Player Award, given to players for significant contributions to their community.
Shortly after he was honored with taking part in the Olympic torch relay in 2010 in Vancouver, it was announced that he would become a member of the Order of Canada, specifically for his ongoing sportsmanship and community involvement. Most recently, he won the City of Vancouver Award of Merit.
There is no doubt that in the vital area of integrity and respect, the Canucks have the ideal person to project the team’s image going forward. Linden is admired by virtually everyone who comes into contact with him, and that sort of persona can only be a benefit when your job description is essentially dealing with people.
So with that put to rest, we can look at the attributes he possesses to make him successful in a hockey front office.
His Business Background
Trevor Linden is an intelligent human being, he passed up a scholarship at Princeton to play junior hockey in Medicine Hat on a line with Kirby Lindal that was wildly successful for the Tigers.
Once he was drafted, he wasted no time putting those brains to use and invested in real estate early in his career. Construction is a large part of his family’s background, so once he retired, a new career in real estate development wasn’t too much of a stretch. Becoming successful in this field has required him to navigate through issues of city planning, the economy and financing with impressive skill, avoiding the pitfalls that have befallen many in similar ventures.
He’s accomplished this due to several reasons. He educated himself in the business he was getting into, he surrounded himself with people who were successful in that business, and he avoided high risk endeavors.
And not to be overlooked is his ability to work with the Contractors, Health and Safety officials, Architects and Site Supervisors that are required to make his projects come to life and get everyone on the same page to make his vision a reality. The exact sort of duties he will perform with the Canucks now.
Later, when he was approached with the idea of starting a fitness club, he applied the same principles as stated above, and is now a 50-50 partner in a company that is looking at adding more locations throughout Vancouver and BC.
Business Background, Hockey Specific
Trevor has never been directly involved in a hockey front office before, but he does have some background in hockey administration that will be extremely beneficial as he moves forward in this new evolution.
Initially he started out as the Canucks player representative to the NHLPA, as everyone elects someone to speak on the team’s behalf. Then in 1998, in one of the better moves they ever made, the NHLPA made him President, a position now occupied by Donald Fehr.
All he did in this role was save the NHL after a labour dispute cancelled the 2004-2005 season. When then NHLPA Executive Director Bob Goodenow made no progress, Trevor used his position as President to masterfully work all the unofficial lines of communication to get a deal done.
The deal in its essence saw the players collect 12 billion dollars over the life of the Collective Bargaining Agreement, and enabled owners to generate record profits while massively increasing the value of their franchises. And of course, it created the added bonus of fans being able to watch hockey again.
Although it wasn’t in time to save the season, it ended the dispute and ensured hockey would continue the following year, and stopped a destructive process that would have had hockey on the shelf for who knows how long. It’s almost impossible to determine how much this experience alone helped develop the skills he will certainly use on behalf of the Canucks now.
The Final Score
Essentially, everything Trevor does brings him success because he immerses himself in what he’s doing, and finds the right people to help him achieve his goals. He is devoid of ego, and only wants to see his plan come to fruition.
Evidently, Trevor Linden is more than qualified for his new job and has all the experience necessary to effectively do his part to make things right again in Vancouver. Canuck fans are free to eagerly anticipate the coming changes.
Darrin Hayes is a regular contributor for the Vancouver Canucks on TheHockeyWriters.com. Follow Darrin on Twitter @HayesTHW or on Facebook via TheHockeyWriters fan page.