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Linden claims ‘complete autonomy from ownership,’ but perception says otherwise in Vancouver

Trevor Linden

Former Vancouver Canucks captain Trevor Linden, left, shakes hands with team owner Francesco Aquilini in Vancouver on Wednesday, April 9, 2014. Linden has been hired as Vancouver’s president of hockey operations. (AP Photo/The Canadian Press, Jonathan Hayward)


For the second time in less than a month, Canucks president Trevor Linden was forced to address the ownership-management relationship in Vancouver.

This time, it followed the team’s inability to make a single trade prior to Monday’s deadline.

Various reports have hinted that ownership meddling may have been partly to blame for defenseman Dan Hamhuis not being dealt to Dallas.

Not so, Linden told a collection season-ticket holders this morning, insisting that the reason Hamhuis is still a Canuck is that the Stars preferred Calgary’s Kris Russell.

“We had complete autonomy from ownership to make the decisions we needed to make,” Linden said, per the Canucks’ Twitter account.

The first time Linden was forced to address the issue came in mid-February, after Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman had suggested during a Hockey Night in Canada segment that ownership and management were not on the same page.

To which Linden responded: “The 20 months that I’ve been here, it’s been an excellent working relationship (between management and ownership). We’ve been completely aligned on where we are and where we need to be and have a good understanding of what we have to do.”

But Friedman’s segment led to the following being written in The Province newspaper:

The Aquilinis’ involvement in hockey ops is the stuff of legends in back channels.

Mythical stories ooze from the city’s elite and from the city’s in-the-know hockey community, about trades which were vetoed , trades which were demanded, and supposedly that time all the defencemen were to be moved.

All of them.

If we dip into the not-too distant past, the former regime had final say and total control of all hockey decisions until the 2011 Game 7 loss in the Cup finals.

After that, power was whittled away, one shaving at a time.

Indeed, the problem for the Canucks is that no matter what Linden says -- and, really, no matter the actual reality -- the perception has become that ownership is overly involved in making the hockey decisions.

That perception really took hold after the hiring of coach John Tortorella in 2013.

And ownership is clearly bothered by it.

From a Globe and Mail article in April of 2014:

On Monday, Francesco Aquilini sent a Globe and Mail reporter a text message warning of legal action after the newspaper published a story discussing the family’s involvement in the hiring.

“I read your article today. You are a prick,” it said. Two hours later, a legal letter from the family’s counsel arrived by e-mail. It alleged defamation, sought a retraction and an apology, and threatened further action.

“The facts are that while the Aquilinis supported the decision of the General Manager, the hiring decision was his and not theirs,” lawyer Howard Shapray of Vancouver-based Shapray Cramer Fitterman Lamer LLP wrote in the legal letter to The Globe.

The legal push also took aim at The Province newspaper in Vancouver, which several weeks earlier in a column had mentioned the Aquilinis’ role in the Tortorella hiring. Mr. Shapray on Monday sent a legal letter to The Province and made similar demands as were made of The Globe.

Now, granted, not everything that’s been said or written by the media has been true. Monday’s deadline alone produced myriad conflicting reports, which means at least some of the information put forth was inaccurate. In the past few days, both Linden and GM Jim Benning have uttered the phrase, “Never let the facts get in the way of a good story.”

But perceptions don’t die easily.

And like the saying goes, perception is reality.