Take me back to the day you got the call inviting you to join Team USA. What was your reaction?
It was a pretty wild week. I broke my nose a couple times this season, so Monday I had nose surgery to straighten it back out. I actually hadn't left my bedroom Monday, Tuesday or Wednesday; I was just lying in bed, trying to get my head screwed on and all of a sudden I get a phone call Thursday morning from Mr. Johannson (USA Hockey director of hockey operations) that he'd like me to play for the World Championships. It was kind of an on-and-off thing where maybe I was going to be a part of it, maybe I wasn't. 'We don't need you. Actually, hang on, maybe can you be a part of it'.
I got the phone call Thursday and I said, 'Hey, that's unbelievable. I'd love to be a part of it. It'd be an honor.' And they said, 'OK, you're flying out tomorrow morning to Portland, Maine.' So I jumped on a flight Friday morning from Chicago and we went to Portland for five days and here we are in Halifax.
And this is the first time you've had the chance to represent the U.S., right?
It's the first time I've ever had a chance to do anything with USA Hockey. You always hear about it; you always hear about how neat it is to put the USA jersey on for the first time. I've also heard how great of a tournament this is. It's just a great, fun tournament. I'm really excited about it. I'm really looking forward to playing in my first kind of international competition like this.
What's it like walking into a new room full of guys you've been competing against?
That was the funny part about it. The kind of different thing for me is -- obviously for the Chicago people that know how I play -- I'm kind of an in-your-face pest out there. But here I'm playing now with all these guys who all season I'm in their face and telling them I'm going to run them every shift and "I'm going to throw you over the end boards" and "I'm going to come after you." Now all of a sudden I'm on their team and we're friends and right away you kind of laugh about it. All the guys share stories from the year. "How about when you punched me there, or we fought that one time?"
Which guys in particular?
David Backes (St. Louis) and Keith Ballard (Phoenix). I fought both those guys a couple times. So it's kind of funny to talk about that and laugh about it. The neat thing about our game of hockey is how there's just that mutual level of respect. You understand what the other guy's doing and when hockey's done it's done and a lot of people can't understand that. The guys that fight, once it is done, you can still be friends with the guy and you can respect the guy and understand where he's coming from, why he's doing it. Now that we can be friends, we can go out and have dinner together. It's been a pretty neat situation to get to know some of these guys on a more personal level now other than saying, "Hey, I'm going to punch you in the face tonight."
Has the adjustment been tough at all jumping into a new system?
It's been a lot more fun than it has been tough. I guess a lot of teams from the NHL, especially up in Chicago, talk about being a young group and that's what this group is now, too. One day we went paint balling, and the teams were divided up by, 'If you're 25 and older, you're on the old guys' team.' To think that if you're 25 years old you're an old guy is pretty funny. It's a really young group of guys and a lot of these guys have played together too. They've played together on World Junior teams or under-18 teams so they've gotten to know each other a lot. I came two days late to camp, so that was the only thing that was difficult for me -- just coming in and trying to learn the systems a couple days after everybody else learned them. It's been a real fun transition and it hasn't been a difficult thing at all. It's been a lot more fun than it has been difficult.
How did the exhibition tune-up go prior to the start of the tournament?
We had one exhibition game there in Portland. I got there the day before so I didn't play that night. I still hadn't learned all the stuff that we wanted to go over. There were a couple college guys that were still there from the three previous days. [Head coach John] Tortorella had let them play, which was fine for me. I hadn't skated in a while and I hadn't been quite up to game speed yet after taking a couple weeks off. That's the one thing the guys were complaining about after the game was how tired they were because they weren't used to skating so much. We just had one tune-up and then practices every day. We had one day off there but practice is every day and it's been great. Tortorella is the coach here, from Tampa Bay, and he's a real up-tempo offensive coach. There's not going to be a whole lot of trapping or any of that kind of stuff going on from this team. That's fun, too. It's a little different for a lot of guys, especially in the Western Conference, for us. It's a change but it's fun. You need a little challenge.
Patrick Kane apparently had a pretty exciting goal in that game. What can you tell me about that?
He just kind of picked it up in the neutral zone in the opportunistic kind of the way he plays. He's kind of waiting for a turnover. A turnover happened and he jumped on it. He went down in between two defensemen and split one of them and then did a little spin-o-rama on the other and threw it right backdoor to Peter Mueller. It was pretty neat. I didn't tell you that, though. He's been loving that move; he's been telling everybody. I didn't tell you it was a great move. If he asks, tell him I said that he kind of threw it in the corner and Mueller went and made the great play.
Who have you been paired with so far?
I've been paired with Drew Stafford and Phil Kessel. I think my role on this team will be a lot like the one in Chicago. It's going to be a little bit of a defensive role, an energy guy, a guy that's real solid in the system that we have in place here and hopefully a lot of penalty killing. That's one thing that I take a lot of pride in. I just love doing it. The guys here were kind of laughing at the way I'm out there blocking shots in practice. "Get out of the way, what are you doing? You're crazy." But it's something that I enjoy. I look forward to being effective in this tournament, killing penalties, and trying to shut down or disrupt other teams' top guys.
A Badger with a Gopher and a North Dakota kid?
A bunch of WCHA guys together, it's fun. Like I said, I didn't know these guys before. I knew Phil a little bit because he's from Madison, my hometown. But I didn't know him as personally as I do now. A lot of these guys, (Zach) Parise, (Drew) Stafford and Mark Stuart, are guys that I battled with all the way through college and now in the NHL. It's a neat opportunity to finally get to know these guys and laugh about stuff that they would say was dumb that I did or dumb stuff that they did. We share some pretty good laughs about it so it's fun to play with these guys and get to know them. Some of these guys are going to be superstars in the league for a long time.
How has Wisniewski been fitting in with everyone?
Wiz is Wiz. He's great. The guys get a real kick out of Wiz. He's a great guy in the locker room; he keeps things loose. He gives out a lot but he takes a lot, too. He's a guy that sits there and makes fun of the guys and then he can be the whipping boy at times, too. So he has fun. The guys are having a heck of a time with him. Any time you're around Wiz you always get a good laugh.
How much are you looking forward to, or dreading, having to make that check on Jonathan Toews or Patrick Sharp when you play Canada?
Are you kidding me? I can't wait. We've been shooting text messages back and forth. Sharpie's saying, "I'm going to run you through the boards." And he says, "What are you doing Burish? There's no fighting here." And I say, yeah, "But there is slashing and checking. You better have that helmet tightened. I'm coming after you. And Dunc, if I chip it in your corner, I'm coming right for you." All three of those guys and myself have been shooting texts back and forth and actually we saw them all before practice; they practiced before us today, so we were all out in the hallway. Wiz and Kaner and I, and Sharpie, Dunc and Toews are all out there talking and all the guys were like, "What is this, a little Chicago Blackhawk reunion here this week or what?" They think it's pretty funny there are six of us here, but it's going to be a lot of fun to play against those guys and to give them a few jabs out there.
Has Toews or Kane asked who gets your Calder Trophy vote?
No, we've been really giving it to Toews though just because I've been with him the last couple weeks. I've really been giving him a hard time about it. Obviously, either one of those two guys is more than deserving. I know a lot of guys in Chicago are really hoping that one of them gets it. We give them both a little bit of a hard time. If Tazer's sitting there, we'll tell him how good Kane is; if Kaner's sitting there, we'll tell him Tazer deserves it and we're pulling for him. But I have no doubt one of them will win it and they'll both be happy for each other, whoever does win it.