Ben Kuzma: Brash Burrows humbled as Ring of Honour inductee

‘By no means in my wildest desires would I’ve thought today would come.’

It was by no means about Alex Burrows.

It wasn’t the finger chew, the hair pull, being known as a clown or focused by a referee with an agenda.


It wasn’t one man slaying the dragon. It wasn’t two time beyond regulation targets in a monumental 2011 march to the Stanley Cup that outlined Burrows because the Vancouver Canucks got here inside a win of sending town into the correct of downtown delirium.

It was a couple of small-town child with big-city desires, a man who went undrafted and underappreciated to such a level that he may have simply known as it quits after incomes simply US$28,000 yearly for driving the buses to East Coast Hockey League outposts like Greenville, S.C., Baton Rouge, La., and Columbia, S.C.

Nonetheless, caring extra about others than himself — particularly the late Luc Bourdon and Rick Rypien — and embracing charities and mental-health initiatives proved his true worth as an individual and participant. Above all, it was doing no matter was essential to will the Canucks to victory.


Burrows didn’t simply beat unimaginable odds. He authored an unimaginable story.

Because the seventh franchise standout to be acknowledged as a Ring of Honour recipient on Tuesday, the 38-year-old retired winger, who’s now an assistant coach with the Laval Rocket of the AHL, was at a loss to elucidate all of the adulation.

“By no means in my wildest desires would I’ve thought today would come,” Burrows stated Monday between engagements, which included a go to to Canuck Place Youngsters’s Hospice. “It was by no means for what I performed for and I by no means thought I’d be a kind of guys who would get this unimaginable honour. It means loads. 


“I’ve come full circle. I had a lot satisfaction to play for the Canucks and it’s going to be tremendous particular to be again to thank former teammates who’ve impacted my profession and coaches who taught me and the followers who at all times supported me.”

Burrows completed the Canucks’ portion of his NHL profession with 384 factors (193-191) in 882 regular-season video games. He additionally scored a few of the greatest playoff targets in franchise historical past and his 19 post-season targets in 70 outings converse to lasting worth as a clutch performer and excellent complement to Henrik and Daniel Sedin.

Whereas his enjoying days completed with two seasons for the Ottawa Senators, after willingly waiving his no-trade clause in 2017 so the Canucks may transition right into a youthful membership, he at all times made a degree of ending what he began — good or unhealthy.


“So long as the crew and coach supported me, I used to be prepared to do no matter it took to win. It was by no means about me. I by no means needed to be the poster boy or be on the entrance web page. I needed our guys to win.”

Combining ardour and compassion allowed Burrows to take care of a devotion to the game that was a winding street stuffed with potholes versus a straight-line paved expressway. And whilst a child in his native Pincourt, Que., Burrows and his buddies would typically enterprise from the Montreal suburb for any sneak peek at their beloved Canadiens.

They rode the bus or took the Metro to the Bell Centre and snuck into fan excursions. At age 14 and 15 they naturally strayed from the orderly procession to take a look at press row or the locker-room, or some other space a curious child would covet earlier than getting caught and ultimately proven the exit door.


“I believe they (guides) knew what we had been doing,” recalled Burrows. “They only allow us to be part of it (tour).”

That window on Burrows’ world had loads to do together with his perseverance. The sports activities junkie at all times thought he may excel at something due to his drive — he’s within the ball hockey corridor of fame — and grinding it out within the minors was about getting that one shot.

Craig Heisinger was the Manitoba Moose basic supervisor when he found Burrows on an ECHL scouting journey in 2002-03. He knew the child had potential. However this?


“If we thought Alex was going to be what he’s at present, we’d be mendacity,” Heisinger stated after Burrows made the NHL leap with authority. “Alex just isn’t a ‘Life of the Wealthy and Well-known’ type of man and also you received’t see that in 10 years. He’s earned all the things he’s obtained. He’s only a hockey participant and he’s obtained to be having the time of his life.”

Nonetheless, getting that tryout with the Moose wasn’t a ticket to greatness. Possibly supplanting grinding winger Jimmy Roy sooner or later within the AHL was an achievable objective.

“It wasn’t at all times simple for him,” added Heisinger. “He obtained despatched down and the primary 12 months he obtained known as up 4 occasions and won’t have performed 4 shifts. The second time, within the NHL lockout 12 months, he obtained despatched down too.


“However when he got here again when Wade Brookbank obtained damage, that was the final he noticed of the East Coast League.”

Canucks coach Marc Crawford noticed one thing within the uncooked and prepared potential. Alain Vigneault then offered the firm-but-fair steerage. John Tortorella adopted and relished the style during which Burrows performed with chew. And Willie Desjardins would say the winger was “among the best gamers I’ve ever coached.”

Nonetheless, Burrows was typically tagged as a yappy freeloader, the most recent to trip the coattails of the Sedins like Anson Carter. He scored 33 targets within the 2005-06 season. However when Vigneault experimented with Burrows and the twins within the third interval of a Feb. 10, 2009, recreation in St. Louis, one thing simply clicked — regardless that Burrows was the seventh winger to align with the twins that season. Burrows bagged the equalizer to make it Four-Four and the Canucks triumphed 6-Four to maintain Burrows on the road for the remaining 30 video games. He completed with 35 targets that season earlier than low season shoulder surgical procedure.


“I’m nonetheless stunned AV known as my identify after the second interval to maneuver as much as the primary line and it’s humorous how issues work,” added Burrows. “Watching the Sedins for 4 years, I discovered what it took to achieve success with them. They took me underneath their wing and at all times confirmed confidence in me and had been unbelievable function fashions.”

The admiration was a two-way road.

The best way Burrows went about his enterprise — typically brash but additionally skilled within the method during which he admired his teammates — wasn’t misplaced on two of the best gamers in franchise historical past, who may have their numbers raised to the Rogers Enviornment rafters Feb. 12.


“He did all the things to remain within the lineup,” recalled Daniel. “He needed to earn respect from his teammates and coaches. He wasn’t given something. It’s only a nice story. It didn’t matter what function he had, he gave it his greatest and had a team-first mentality.”

Possibly Henrik stated it greatest. 

“He meant extra to me and Daniel than perhaps some other participant,” stated the long-serving former Canucks captain. “He’s at all times going to be particular.”


That got here to fruition on-and-off the ice.

Burrows will without end be remembered for his time beyond regulation heroics — particularly the Recreation 7 OT winner over the rival Chicago Blackhawks within the opening spherical of the 2011 playoffs — and for his compassion away from the sport. When Bourdon was misplaced in a tragic motorbike accident in Could 2008, his girlfriend, Charlene Ward, was gripped by grief and an unsure future.

Nonetheless the help of Burrows and his spouse, Nancy, amid a lot despair allowed Ward to assemble herself. On the time, she was immersed within the first demanding 12 months of learning drugs on the College of Sherbrooke district campus in Moncton, N.B., and struggled with staying busy and never continuously considering of Bourdon.


Quick-forward and the story has modified for the higher.

“She’s doing improbable,” stated Burrows. “She has overcome loads within the final decade and is a health care provider in Moncton and had her first little one and is married. She has overcome all the things in one of the best ways potential.”

Bourdon’s tragic dying and the lack of Rypien left Burrows with the assumption that life is larger than the sport he loves. Life strikes quick.


“Society adjustments,” careworn Burrows. “There are most likely issues and a few stuff that I did or stated that I perhaps ought to have thought twice about or held again a bit extra. However for probably the most half, I don’t remorse something I did and was accountable for my actions and with all of the phrases I stated.

“As a human beings, all of us evolve.”