For many hockey players, there is no feeling quite like donning your country’s colours and representing them on the world stage. Two of the Vancouver Canucks got the chance to do just that at the 2012 World Hockey Championships in Finland and Sweden. Alex Burrows wore Canada’s maple leaf while Jannik Hansen wore Denmark’s lion.
The oldest player on the team at the age of 31, this was Burrows’ first time representing Canada in ice hockey – he has won medals for Canada in ball hockey in the past. This chance, especially after a disappointing NHL post-season, meant a lot.
“There are so many good players who have played for our country. For me to get a chance, I didn’t really expect this,” Burrows, the final forward added to the team, told the Vancouver Sun. “Ever since I was a kid, I always remember watching the world juniors and watching Team Canada. I remember Mario Lemieux scoring on that 3-on-1 [at the Canada Cup] in 1987. Even at the Olympics in Vancouver, I think I was the loudest guy in the building cheering for the team. It means a lot to be part of it – to try to win a gold medal.”
Unfortunately, a medal is not what Burrows will be bringing home, as Canada was knocked out of the tournament in the quarterfinals against Slovakia. However, he will be bringing back some great memories and experiences. Despite an early injury, Burrows made a huge impact in the games he played.
Skating on a line with Jordan Eberle and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, Burrows collided with Slovakian Marcel Hascak in the second period of Canada’s first game on May4. He looked woozy and uneasy after the hit and all concussion protocol was followed. Despite not feeling any concussion symptoms after the game, Burrows missed the next three games before making his comeback on May 11 against Finland.
Down 2-0 in the second period, Burrows scored Canada’s first goal at 5:34 in what would be an eventual 5-3 win – which he only played 8:21 minutes of. He later scored shorthanded against Kazakhstan, taking home the player of the game award for Canada, then scored Canada’s go-ahead goal against Slovakia in the quarterfinal. The quarterfinal game was one of his best. Besides scoring, he had a lot of time on the penalty kill and played against Slovakia’s top line. He had an obvious presence on the ice and played the way he would normally play, despite the bigger ice, the different teammates and the European opponents who bring different styles of play.
“I couldn’t care less what people those people think,” Burrows told the Vancouver Sun when asked if the World Championships would be a chance for redemption and a change of image. “I’m going to play the same kind of game I play in Vancouver and see where it leads me. It’s out of my control what people think…If Team Canada management thought of me, they must have noticed the player I am. And that means a lot more to me than what [critics] think.”
Burrows recorded his experiences in Finland via the Vancouver Canucks’ blog Fort Nucks. In his first entry he wrote, “I’m focused on playing a solid 2-way game with a lot of the forecheck, and providing net presence. I’m also hoping to play a big role on the PK.”
His concussion was not the only setback Burrows had to face. His equipment got lost on its way from Vancouver to Montreal, Burrows’ off-season home, so he had to purchase entirely new gear for the tournament.
“Good thing I’m low maintenance with my gear,” he said.
Then there was Hansen. Denmark had a tougher and less successful tournament than Canada, not making it into the quarterfinals. They are therefore not one of the nine pre-qualified teams for the 2014 Winter Olympics and are ranked 12th overall. They will compete in another tournament to determine their position going into the Olympics.
“It’s always an honour to be allowed to represent your country,” Hansen told the Vancouver Sun before the tournament. “It’s an important tournament for us (Denmark) going forward in terms of rankings for the Olympics in Russia and so on. But again, getting a chance to play in your national team colours is always a nice thing.”
One of four NHL players on Denmark’s team, Hansen had two assists and an even plus/minus in six games played. He lead his team in penalty minutes with 29 and was named the player of the game in a 2-0 loss to the Czech Republic. The low point of the tournament for Hansen would probably be his one game boarding suspension. He missed Denmark’s game against Italy, which they lost in overtime.
As with the NHL post-season, Burrows and Hansen’s time at the World Championships ended earlier then they would like. However, they both proudly represented their countries and played some of their best hockey for them – what more could you ask for? Both will undoubtedly have a busy off-season before the 2012-13 NHL season begins. Hansen is getting married this summer while Burrows returns home with his wife Nancy and one-year old daughter Victoria – and then the dream continues.
“I didn’t even think I’d make it to the NHL when I played those tournaments (ball hockey in ’03 and ’05),” Burrows told the Vancouver Sun. “To be here now, seven seasons into my NHL career and representing Canada, I’ve come a long way and I’m proud of it.”