TORONTO – Alex Burrows was only a few blocks from enemy headquarters. His feud with Hockey Night in Canada had generated national attention, sparking a boycott of the show by his Vancouver Canucks teammates.
And while he said hostilities had come to an end as he finished a practice at the Air Canada Centre, near the CBC’s central offices in Toronto on Friday, he said he would not be dropping by for a visit.
“No, I haven’t planned to go there,” Burrows said. “Hopefully, tomorrow, we’ll give them a good show on TV.”
The recent controversy has overshadowed a remarkable show Burrows and his linemates have been providing in Vancouver this month. Undrafted out of junior and left to ride the bus through the hinterlands of minor league hockey, the 28-year-old has emerged as an integral contributor to one of the hottest lines in hockey.
Burrows has 22 points in his last 17 games playing on a line with Henrik and Daniel Sedin. The Canucks have reaped the benefits, winning a season-high six straight games as they get set to open an epic 14-game road trip with a Saturday night game against the Toronto Maple Leafs.
Vancouver will not play at home again until March 13, with the Olympic break factored into the schedule, and will skip from Toronto to points further east before heading south, and then west. They will be far from home, but perhaps still not as far as Burrows has travelled from his humble beginnings in professional hockey.
Undrafted after finishing his junior career in Shawinigan, Burrows migrated to the ECHL, moving between hockey hotbeds Greenville, S.C., and Baton Rouge, La., in his rookie season. A free agent contract with the Manitoba Moose, Vancouver’s AHL farm team, marked the beginning of his ascent.
“It’s different,” Burrows said with a smile. “It’s not the same thing, being in the East Coast and riding buses, playing three (games) in three (nights), or four in four sometimes. I’ve worked hard for it.”
His placement on Vancouver’s top line was an admitted stroke of luck from head coach Alain Vigneault. Burrows had been playing on a checking line with the Canucks before he landed with the Sedins.
“It’s like some kind of magic with those two guys,” Burrows said. “They know where they’re going to be, especially in the offensive zone. If it’s on the forehand or the backhand, they’re able to make those saucer passes, and it makes them really fun to watch.”
Henrik Sedin led the league with 76 points heading into Friday’s batch of games, entering the discussion as a bona fide Hart Trophy candidate as the league’s most valuable player. His brother, Daniel, missed 18 games with a broken foot, but has returned to see the line catch fire this month.
Burrows has 23 goals and 22 assists, and is just six points shy of his career-high (51), which he established last year.
“The twins don’t want someone just to stand in front of the net, they want someone to cycle with them,” Vigneault said. “And he reads off them well. And when it’s time for him to go to the front of the net, where he’s getting most of his goals, he knows when to go.”
Burrows is also now aware of living under a microscope, after he made public complaints about referee Stephane Auger. Burrows alleged Auger declared he was on a personal vendetta before a game on Jan. 11, saying: “you made me look bad so I’m going to get you back tonight.”
Burrows was fined US$2,500, and became the target of harsh criticism from Hockey Night in Canada host Ron MacLean. The Canucks boycotted the show during last weekend’s 5-1 win over the Chicago Blackhawks.
“He’s always tried to stir things up, and that’s his role,” Henrik Sedin said. “I think every team has a few of those. He’s been in the news lately, but I think we’ve got to look at him as a really good hockey player, and that’s the No. 1 thing he brings to the team.”
All three linemates would, obviously, prefer to have the focus on the ice.
“He’s probably like Henrik and myself – we’re not the best skaters in the world and we don’t have the best shot, but we’re trying to do the right things out there,” Daniel Sedin said. “And right now, it’s paying off.”