VANCOUVER — Trevor Linden spent seven seasons as captain of the Vancouver Canucks.
Now he’s getting the chance to lead the team’s front office.
Linden was named the team’s president of hockey operations on Wednesday, one day after general manager Mike Gillis was fired following the Canucks’ failure to make the playoffs.
"When this opportunity to be president of hockey operations was presented to me, I gave it great thought and I simply could not pass it up," Linden said at a news conference alongside Canucks owner Francesco Aquilini.
"Through my 20 years as a player, 15 years with the NHLPA and my more recent work in growing and leading a private business, I believe I’m ready for this challenge. I’m young, I’m passionate about this team, and I want to win, just like the Canuck fans do."
Linden had denied reports he would be taking over as president on Tuesday during an appearance on a Vancouver TV show. He said Wednesday he has apologized to the host of that show and that he couldn’t confirm the reports at that time.
"It was an impossible situation to be in and out of respect for the process and certainly Mike (Gillis) and his family I had to do what I did," Linden said.
Linden, who makes his home in Vancouver, has been away from the NHL since retiring after the 2007-08 season and has been involved in private business ventures. He said Wednesday he enjoyed his time away from hockey, but the time was right to make a return.
"You don’t spend 20 years in the National Hockey League and spend your whole life in hockey and not have it in your DNA," he said.
Linden played 19 seasons in the NHL, mostly with the Canucks. He was drafted second overall by the Canucks in 1988 and named team captain at age 21 and led the team to the 1994 Stanley Cup final, where Vancouver lost in seven games to the New York Rangers.
Linden was traded to the New York Islanders during the 1997-98 season, and spent time in Washington and Montreal before being traded back to the Canucks early in the 2001-02 campaign.
His last season came in 2007-08, the last time the Canucks failed to make the playoffs. He played his final NHL game on April 5, 2008 and had his No. 16 retired by the Canucks later that year.
The 43-year-old Linden scored 375 goals and added 492 assists in 1,382 career NHL games. He served as president of the NHL Players’ Association for eight years, a span that included the lockout that cancelled 2005-06 season.
"We believe in Trevor, we believe he is the perfect person to lead this hockey club, and we are confident in his abilities as a leader," Aquilini said. "We all remember 1994, his last game, and the leadership he showed through his role as NHLPA president. He has provided many memorable moments and we’re excited to work together to deliver even more."
Gillis took the initial brunt of the blame for the Canucks’ failure to make the post-season. Vancouver was eliminated from playoff contention in a listless and embarrassing 3-0 loss to the Anaheim Ducks on Monday that had fans at a half-empty Rogers Arena chanting "Fire Gillis" in the game’s dying minutes.
At the NHL general managers meeting last month in Boca Raton, Fla., Gillis pointed to injuries and head coach John Tortorella’s infamous locker-room incident against the Calgary Flames as reasons for a disappointing mid-season swoon that saw the team win just four of 20 games, including eight consecutive regulation losses.
Gillis was named NHL general manager of the year for the 2010-11 season and signed a contract extension after the 2011-12 campaign, but admitted in the radio interview that the Canucks’ fall from grace put his job security in question.
Apart from this season’s product on the ice, Gillis had also been roundly criticized for his poor draft record, questionable free-agent signings and trades, and the handling of the Roberto Luongo saga, which saw the Canucks eventually lose star goaltenders Luongo and Corey Schneider.