Twelve seasons – that’s how long Alex Burrows was a Vancouver Canuck. From beginning to end, he bled blue and green (and red, silver, maroon, black, yellow… yeah, he was here a long time).
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Now, although he’ll wear a Senators jersey for the next couple of seasons, he’ll be taking a bunch of Canucks fans on the ride with him – chalk that to the indelible mark he left on Vancouverites’ hearts.
While Burrows is synonymous with Dragon Slayer to all Canucks fans, he gave Vancouver’s 12 full years worth of memories.
One of the most amazing parts of Burrows’ story is that he started his professional hockey career playing most of four seasons in the ECHL – not usually a league that churns out NHLers.
In 2006, during his second year with the Manitoba Moose – then Vancouver’s AHL affiliate – he was called up by the Canucks. Eight games later he had a goal and an assist in a win over the Maple Leafs.
In March of that same year fans saw the potential he brought when he showed how quick his hands were around the net, scoring his first NHL hat trick against L.A.
While the Game 7 overtime goal against Chicago was his biggest, Burrows had a knack for scoring massive goals.
In 2009, Burrows ended a nine-game losing streak by scoring the winning 4-3 goal – a shorthanded breakaway goal, no less – against the Carolina Hurricanes with 82 seconds left in the game.
At that point he was still playing in a third-line checking role with Ryan Kesler at centre.
Burrows’ career took a sharp turn when he was promoted to the top line with the Sedins in February 2009. Playing on one of the most potent lines in the NHL, he scored over 25 goals in four straight seasons from 2008-09 to 2011-12, during which time both his linemates – Henrik and Daniel Sedin – won Art Ross Trophies by leading the NHL in scoring.
In January 2010, Burrows scored hat-tricks in two straight games against Columbus and Phoenix, becoming the first NHL player to score back-to-back hat tricks since Ilya Kovalchuk did it three years earlier.
Still, that Game 7 goal against Chicago was the one that will stick in Canucks fans’ minds for eternity.
With the reigning Stanley Cup Champions knocking Vancouver out of the playoffs for two consecutive years, everything was on the line in that first round series in 2011.
That wasn’t all – most media members and fans believed if the Canucks hadn’t been able to beat Chicago that season to emerge from the first round, the entire team would’ve been blown up – the coach fired, the core separated.
In overtime of Game 7, after the Blackhawks tied the game with just second left in regulation, the stage was set.
As the story goes, during the pre-overtime intermission, Roberto Luongo told his teammates: one of you will be the hero.
Like he did so many times for the Canucks, Burrows literally stole that invitation and made it his moment.
He snatched an attempted clearing pass out of the air and then slapped a knucklepuck past Corey Crawford. And because of the pressure of the moment, it is and always will be one of the most memorable goals in Canucks history.
An article reminiscing on Burrows’s time in Vancouver wouldn’t be complete or accurate without the word controversy in it. Truly, he requires an entire section for it.
Burrows had many run-ins with players and officials over the years, but the most memorable would be his feud with referee Stephane Auger in 2010.
Following a game against the Predators in which Burrows received a three minor penalties and a 10-minute misconduct, he accused Auger of having a personal vendetta against him.
Burrows’ own account of the Auger situation (from the Hockey News):
“It was personal,” said Burrows. “The ref came over to me and said I made him look bad in Nashville on the Smithson hit.
“He said he was going to get me back tonight and he did his job in the third.”
The Auger situation would lead to a biased Ron MacLean segment where he unfairly criticized Burrows, eventually resulting in the entire team boycotting interviews on Hockey Night in Canada for a week.
Another Burrows fan-favourite moment was when he and Kesler were taunting Blues forward David Backes during the first round of the 2009 playoffs, telling him to say hi to his wife for them.
Exploits like these caused Burrows to be reviled around the league, while simultaneously cementing his spot in Canucks fans’ hearts.
For all his stirring the pot around the league, Burrows showed his softer side when teammate and good friend Luc Bourdon died in a car accident before the 2008-09 season.
After almost every goal he scored after Bourdon’s death, Burrows remembered his friend by shooting an arrow into the sky.
Here, Burrows talks about his friendship with Bourdon.
Time to move on
It won’t be easy for Vancouver to watch Burrows play in another city, and that’s because he is as much a true Canuck as Trevor Linden, Stan Smyl, and Henrik and Daniel Sedin.
The difference with Burrows is he represented the everyday fan. In many ways, coming from the ECHL, it was almost as if he was one.
The same guy who played in ball hockey tournaments during the summer somehow went on to play on the league’s best line and score some of Vancouver’s biggest goals.
He also never forgot what it was like to be a fan, always stopping to talk to any and everyone who stopped him in the city’s streets. It was widely known he was the most approachable and genuine player on the roster.
For all these reasons and so many more, Burrows is one of the greatest Canucks of all time.
For all these reasons and so many more, Burrows will always be a Canuck at heart, no matter what team he plays for.