584-lindenretire081217

Trevor Linden, announcing his retirement in June, has been applauded for his charitable work. ((Darryl Dyck/Canadian Press))

Four days before he died, Michael Robinson had one of the best experiences of his short life.

The 14-year-old cancer patient was Trevor Linden's caddy at a 1997 charity golf tournament. The hockey star had recruited him for the job six months earlier.

"I honestly believe the reason Michael lasted in this world as long as he did was because he had Trevor by his side," Michael's sister, Zoe-Anne Robinson, told Hockey Night in Canada.

The boy was one of many sick kids whom Linden met during his playing career. The athlete devoted much of his time to working with charities and helping seriously ill children.

In retiring Linden's jersey Wednesday night, the Vancouver Canucks are paying tribute to a man who made as much of an impact off the ice as on.

Linden, who retired in June, spent most of his 19 NHL seasons in Vancouver, where he earned the moniker "Captain Canuck."

The Canucks named him captain in the 1991-92 season, and the 21-year-old forward became one of the youngest players to wear the C in league history.

Two seasons later, he led the Canucks to the Stanley Cup finals, where they came within one game of victory.

Also while with the Canucks, Linden appeared in two league all-star games (1991, 1992). He also represented Canada at the 1996 World Cup of Hockey and the 1998 Winter Olympics in Nagano, Japan.

In 1998, Linden was elected president of the NHL Players Association (NHLPA). He held the position for eight years, and played an important role in negotiations between players and owners during the 2004-2005 labour dispute.

During his playing days in Vancouver, Linden was active in the local community and was involved with several charitable causes. He often visited local hospitals and hospices, to spend time with terminally ill children.

He established the Trevor Linden Foundation, which raises money for local charities and the B.C. Children's Hospital.

He also founded "Captain's Crew," a program that gave children who would not otherwise have the chance the opportunity to attend Canuck games.

For the past four years, Linden has been the honorary chairman of the Canadian Cancer Society's Cops for Cancer bike tours, helping to raise millions of dollars for pediatric cancer care and research.

Off-ice contributions honoured

The NHL has recognized his off-ice contributions. In 1997, the league gave him the King Clancy Memorial Trophy, which is awarded to the player who best exemplifies leadership qualities on and off the ice and has made noteworthy humanitarian contributions to his community.

Earlier this year, he received the Foundation Player Award, given each year to a player who makes a significant contribution to his community.

In 2003, British Columbia recognized his efforts, awarding him the Order of British Columbia.

B.C. Premier Gordon Campbell declared Wednesday Trevor Linden Day in the province. In a statement, Campbell said Linden "has inspired so many of us to be the very best we can be as individuals, as team players, as members of our communities, and as citizens of our province and nation.

"The players who inspire us most excel not only on the ice, but also as role models, showing the importance of character and leadership," he added.

Looking back on his career, Linden feels as thankful as those he helped. "As much as I gave in certain situations," he said, "I received every bit as much, if not more, in what I learned and in the courage I saw."