Chosen second overall behind only Dallas' Mike Modano in the 1988 draft, Linden spent 16 of his 19 seasons in Vancouver, where he was the face of the franchise for most of the past two decades.
"It's just the right time," Linden said. "When you get to a point where mentally you are there, where mentally you feel you've got everything out that you could, it's time to look to other things, and I'm looking forward to that."
The 38-year-old Linden played 1,140 of his 1,382 games, and recorded 733 of his 867 career points, with the Canucks. He finishes with a franchise-record 415 assists, second to only Markus Naslund with 318 goals, and as the team's career playoff leader with 118 games, 34 goals and 95 points.
Linden made the team in 1988, scoring 30 goals and finishing second in voting for NHL Rookie of the Year behind New York Rangers defenseman Brian Leetch. By the age of 21, he was named the youngest captain in the NHL. And in 1994, his sixth season, Linden led the Canucks to the Stanley Cup Finals, scoring both goals in a 3-2 Game 7 loss to the Rangers.
Traded to the New York Islanders in 1998 just before playing for Canada at the Olympics, Linden also played in Montreal and Washington before being brought back to Vancouver from the Capitals in a trade in November 2001.
Long a fan favorite in Vancouver, Linden twice had to answer serious questions during Wednesday's retirement press conference about possibly running for mayor.
"I've met some of the kids named Linden and some of them are getting a little old, so that's maybe a hint to move on," Linden said of his popularity. "I came here as an 18-year-old right out of high school and kind of grew up here. People saw me come here as a young boy and mature and I think they got to know me, so that maybe explains a little bit of the connection."
A two-time All-Star, Linden finishes with 375 goals and 867 points. For all his accomplishments on the ice, Linden was perhaps as well known for his work off it, including his work as president of the NHL Players Association for eight years.
Canucks center Brendan Morrison praised Linden for his ability to weather the tough times.
"Everybody was looking to him for answers," Morrison said. "I think he handled it well. At the bottom of his heart he was trying to do the right thing at all times.
"I don't know if many other guys could have handled it as well as he did."