By Derek Jory
Why Warner Brothers hasn’t called for the Alex Burrows story, I’ll never understand.
The undrafted Canucks forward, who scrapped his was way from the East Coast Hockey League to playing between the most skilled players in the National Hockey League, will celebrate yet another improbable milestone when Vancouver plays Nashville Tuesday.
Burrows will join the 500 games club, he’s halfway to 1,000 and a long long way from a time when he was contemplating quitting hockey all together.
“Third year going into the ECHL, I remember telling myself that at Christmas if I was still there I’d have to go back to school and try to make a living at another career,” said Burrows, following Vancouver’s game day skate Tuesday.
“Fortunately enough I was able to get the call from Manitoba and never looked back after that.”
The 30-year-old has picked up 133 goals and 125 assists in 499 career games and he likely remembers almost every goal and assist. Burrows has never taken his spot on the Canucks for granted because of what he went through to earn it.
Coach Alain Vigneault has been with Burrows since the start as he coached the Manitoba Moose when the forward was first called up. Vigneault could see the potential he had from the beginning.
“It’s a great story, it’s a story about perseverance, it’s a story about not giving up on your dream,” said Vigneault, echoing my sentiment this movie script writes itself.
“To go from junior as an overage player, then going to the East Coast for a couple of years, then finally getting a break on an American League contract in Winnipeg and then finally getting a break and making the most of the break and to become the type of player that he is right now, it’s a remarkable story.
“He deserves it; he’s put in a lot of time and effort.”
Burrows, although grateful of 500 games, brushed it off as nothing more than a number and credited his teammates, specifically Daniel and Henrik Sedin, with helping him become the player he is today.
No longer a mere agitator, Burrows is invaluable to the Canucks as a dynamic player on Vancouver’s top line, he’s trusted with heavy minutes, power play time, penalty kill assignments and a whole lot more. He’s a jack-of-all-trades, but he remains humble.
“Obviously it’s a nice number and I’m happy to have played that many games, but at the same time I think everybody has their journey and even if you’re a first or second rounder, you still have to work extremely hard to get to the NHL,” said Burrows. “Everybody has got their story and maybe people like mine, but at the same time the best thing about our team is that we’re contending for the Stanley Cup again this year and that’s what makes it even more exciting.”
What would Burrows be doing if he wasn’t playing hockey?
“Probably write stories like yours,” he laughed, looking at me. “I don’t know, I was always a big sports fan, so I would have probably tried to do something around hockey or sports management kind of stuff.”
The ol’ Twitter machine has been working overtime in tribute to Alex Burrows’ 500th game. Here are a few of the tweets we’ve received after asking fans their favourite Burrows moment.
@JoshKaszonyi - @VanCanucks The season opener vs Calgary in 08. Burrows scored the third goal of the game and shot a arrow up for Bourdon. #Burrows500
@MikeCincoSays - Drafted Burrows in the 15th round of my hockey pool in 2008. Everyone said it was a homer pick, turns out it was a homerun! #Burrows500
@12buckmafia - @VanCanucks Feb. 16, 2008 - 25 penalty minutes and a Goal! #Burrows500
@MichaelSTRIVE - "They slayed the Dragon!" Burrows scores game winner in OT vs Blackhawks in Game 7 of 2011 playoffs #Burrows500 #favoriteMoment
@CeleneEccles - Last year in the playoffs where he scored 10 seconds into over time! #burrows500
@apvancouver - @VanCanucks Favorite burrows goal is his first in the NHL. Pure joy! #Burrows500
What’s your favouite Burrows moment? Join the conversation and use the hashtag #Burrows500 for a chance to win an autographed Burrows jersey.