Trevor Linden is treated like a hockey deity in Vancouver, and today is St. Trevor's Day: his No. 16 will hang from the rafters of GM Place tonight in a ceremony that will last longer than most animated movies do.
So what better time to seemingly insult his legacy as a Vancouver Canucks captain, right?
On Sunday against the Florida Panthers, enforcer Darcy Hordichuk scored his third goal in six games and decided to celebrate it in an animated way on the ice. After the game, he offered the following comment:
"Everybody gets everybody going by having a little bit of a celebration ... I think when Trevor Linden was here not too many guys were celebrating, or were allowed to. It's all about having fun, and when we're winning we're having fun."
Did Darcy pick the wrong week for that or what? The Vancouver media pounced on the statement, wondering if Hordichuk was insulting a beloved player on the eve of his number retirement and, if he wasn't, what exactly the big lug was trying to say here.
The Canucks and Hordichuk started spinning like Jason Blake in the shootout, trying to kill the controversy as quickly as it started. And Hordichuk's explanation is a tad underwhelming.
Gillis said it was his understanding that Hordichuk's comments were made "very light-heartedly with a bunch of teammates around that were having fun with Hordy about his goal celebration ... From my understanding there was absolutely no malice or anything serious about it. It was more of a reaction to a bunch of guys having fun."
The fun continued on Tuesday, which was Hordichuk's first meeting with the media following the comments. According to Jason Botchford of The Province, his teammates goofed on him by placing a freshly washed jersey with Linden's number taped on the back near Hordichuk's locker, and he nearly wore it out for practice. Good times.
Now, what the hell was Hordichuk trying to say after Sunday's game? From the Province, the mea culpa:
"All I meant is that guys like me don't score a lot of goals. So, when I do score a goal, I like to celebrate," Hordichuk said. "When the older generation of guys score, they know in two or three games they're going to score another one. Where I'm at a career high, and have tripled my goals.
"When you look at the celebrations I've done, I'm maybe a little overboard. But I didn't mean anything by it.
"This is Canada and people want to make something big that maybe wasn't there."
Great, now he's insulted Trevor Linden and the entirety of Canada.
This is obviously a suitable company line for Hordy to spew, but it doesn't address this part of his original statement: "not too many guys were celebrating, or were allowed to."
That's a clear shot at the locker room culture on previous Canucks teams, or on teams that have stoic veterans leading the way. As Tony Gallagher wrote in The Province about Linden not needing anyone to come to his defense:
This sort of shot is received by many of the better leaders when they get older. You only had to be in the dressing room of the Pittsburgh Penguins last year when they were battling the Wings in the Cup final. At the time the younger players in the Pens room were openly kidding and ridiculing Gary Roberts' no fun attitude, whereupon he would exhort his young teammates to be a little bit more mature about their preparation. He would shake his head and give it the tisk, tisk, while they'd run off trying to get someone else with a fire extinguisher. Each player was performing his role, and when you think about it, performing it well. The same things were said of Mark Messier when he was in his final days in New York. The more mature the leader gets, the more subject he is to this sort of thing whether the knocks are good-natured or otherwise. And the last guy to worry about it would be Linden.
Linden deserves the franchise's gratitude and hockey fans' respect for his blue-collar approach to the game and honorable deeds off the ice. And Hordichuk is the last guy to try and knock him down a peg.
If anything, Hordichuk is taking a shot at veteran players like Linden who suck the fun out of the game; whether it's due to their own preferences for etiquette or for the betterment of the team.
The dynamic of the current Canucks locker room sees leaders in players like Alex Burrows, Ryan Kesler and captain Roberto Luongo, who will never be confused with Daniel Day Lewis on the solemnity scale. There's a young, energetic vibe that carries over to the ice, and it's all working right now to the tune of third (or fifth) in the conference. So rather than smack talk on Linden, the comment was smack talk on Linden's generation of players; Hordichuk's basically saying "we're proving we can have fun and win at the same time, Whoda thunk it?"
As Hordichuk said: "They know I'm not like Sean Avery and I wouldn't say any (disparaging) comments about players." Of course, it helps when your teammates can laugh it off as a division co-leader, rather than scapegoat a guy as a last-place team.