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Trevor Linden ponders a reporter's question at Wednesday's announcement. ((Darryl Dyck/Canadian Press))

Trevor Linden ended his NHL playing career Wednesday as the Vancouver Canucks' second-leading scorer and one of the more popular players in franchise history.

The six-foot-four forward is the Canucks' all-time leader in assists (415) and games played (1,140) and ranks second behind Markus Naslund in goals (318) and points (733).

"As I step away from the game today, and move into the next chapter of my life, I definitely have mixed emotions," Linden said at Wednesday's news conference attended by team management, several players, family and friends. "I know the time is right but there is sadness.

"Where did 20 years go?"

Linden totalled 375 goals and 492 assists for 867 points in 1,382 NHL games with the  Washington Capitals, Montreal Canadiens, New York Islanders and Canucks, who drafted the native of Medicine Hat, Alta., second overall in 1988.

He is expected to leave the game for a period to concentrate on a current real-estate project in Victoria.

"I will miss the game, all of the people involved in the game, and definitely the buzz of game day," he said.

"I would be disappointed if he just went right back into the hockey end of it," his father, Lane, told the Vancouver Sun. "He's been under somebody's thumb his whole life, whether it  be coaches or managers. There are so many opportunities out there for someone with ambition."

Although he was an offensive threat in his first stint with the Canucks, Linden accepted a reduced and defensive role in the second.

Linden was a healthy scratch for 24 games this season and finished with seven goals and 12 points playing primarily on the Canucks' fourth line. 

"I said to myself before the season started that regardless of what situation I was in, I was going to come to work every day and enjoy practice, support the guys, be a good teammate. I didn't know what was going to happen," Linden, who had 867 points in 1,382 career regular-season games, told Hockey Night in Canada in April.

"Not playing is difficult, but at the same time, this game has been too good to me to be taking away from what the team was trying to accomplish. You adapt. Through the course of the last few years your role changes, and you do whatever you can to help the team."

One of Linden's highlights in a Canucks uniform was helping the team to Game 7 of the 1994 Stanley Cup final against the New York Rangers.

"He's a Canuck through and through," said his father. "That's why he wanted to finish his [playing] career in Vancouver, on his own terms. And he's done it with a lot of class and dignity.

"I sometimes think his biggest legacy won't be as a hockey player but as a person."

The face of the Canucks, Linden also made an impact in the community with his devotion to Canuck Place — the children's hospice — and other charities.

"I think the obligation of a professional athlete is to be responsible and make a difference," he said. "It's a great gift we have and to make a difference is not difficult to do.

"I think it's the package you want any player that came to the organization to have."

Linden played for Team Canada several times, winning the gold medal at the 1988 world junior championship.

He later represented Canada in two men's world championships (1991, 1998), the 1996 World Cup of Hockey and the 1998 Nagano Olympic Winter Games.

Linden's junior career was highlighted by consecutive Memorial Cup titles with the Medicine Hat Tigers.

From 1998 to 2005,  he served as president of the NHL Players' Association.

Asked what his career highlights were, Linden said being drafted, beating the Toronto Maple Leafs in the 1994 conference final, being part of the 1998 Olympic hockey team, and his last game as a Canuck on April 5 where he received several standing ovations from the hometown crowd.

Linden saluted the Canucks faithful prior to the start of the third period and after the game as his teammates signed jerseys and gave them to a select group of fans.

"For someone who doesn't like a lot of attention, that was a lot of attention," Linden told HNIC at the time. "But the people of Vancouver, the fans of this team, have treated me so well for so long."

And they'll have another reason to cheer within a year when it is expected Linden's jersey will be raised to the GM Place rafters.

With files from the Canadian Press