Six Canucks heading to Belarus for Ice Hockey World Championship [Updated]

Getting the call from your home country to play in the World Championship has to be a little bittersweet. On the one hand, it’s a tremendous honour to play for your country. On the other hand, it means you either missed the playoffs or got eliminated awfully early.

Accordingly, it can be difficult for a player to get excited to suit up for more hockey, having just recently come to grips with the thought of a long off-season. Others may decline the invitation due to lingering injuries that they’re eager to rehab before getting back into training and working out for next season.

Seven Canucks, however, have shaken out the doldrums and disappointment to commit to playing for their various countries: Alex Burrows, Kevin Bieksa, Jason Garrison, Jannik Hansen, Nicklas Jensen, and Eddie Lack.

It should be noted that the teams have not been named in full as of yet, as countries wait to see who is eliminated in the first round of the NHL playoffs to invite additional players. It’s entirely possible, albeit unlikely, that more Canucks will be making the trip. I delayed the writing of this post, in fact, as more players kept getting announced.

Burrows, Bieksa, and Garrison will, of course, be representing Team Canada. This will be particularly special for Bieksa and Garrison, who have never previously represented Canada at any level. Meanwhile, this will be Burrows’ second trip to the World Championship with Canada, scoring 3 goals (and hugging one goalie) in 5 games during the 2012 tournament.

They’ll be joining former teammate Cody Hodgson, giving Mike Gillis’s detractors more ammunition: Hodgson’s playing for Team Canada and Kassian isn’t! WORST TRADE EVER!

Of note, Ron Hextall, who has been rumoured to be a candidate for the Canucks’ open General Manager position, is on the management team for Team Canada, as the assistant GM to Rob Blake. Hextall is also the assistant GM for the Philadelphia Flyers, who are still in the playoffs, and it will be interesting to see if his work with Team Canada further delays any potential interview process with the Canucks.

If he does get the Canucks job, his work with Team Canada will have given him a pretty good look at a few current Canucks and Burrows, Bieksa, and Garrison would have to be feeling pretty positive about their future with the team.

On the European side of things, Weber will be playing for Switzerland for the second time this year after the Olympics. It will only be his second appearance in the World Championships, however, playing just 3 games in 2009, though he did have a previous Olympic appearance. He also played in three World Junior tournaments for Switzerland. He missed last year’s World Championship, where Switzerland won a silver medal.

Nicklas Jensen and Jannik Hansen, the Honninggrævling, will be playing for Denmark, who have to be hungry for success after barely missing out on qualifying for the Olympics. This will be the second World Championship tournament for both Jensen and Hansen, with Jensen scoring 2 goals in 3 games last year and Hansen tallying 2 assists in 6 games in 2012. This will be their first time playing together for their country, as Jensen suffered a concussion prior to the 2012 tournament and Hansen chose not to play after a tough first round playoff loss in 2013.

As for Sweden, neither the Sedins nor Alex Edler will appear in the tournament to defend last year’s gold medal, which isn’t entirely surprising. All three struggled with injuries at various points this season and also played for Sweden during the Olympics. The best case scenario for Canucks fans is that the three of them take time now to get healthy.

Eddie Lack, however, will be in net for Team Sweden, which is pretty great.

UPDATE: Welp, nevermind.

Lack has previously played for his country on the U-18 and U-20 teams, but this will be his first time playing for the men’s team. Among Swedish goaltenders in the NHL, Lack was not far behind Henrik Lundqvist in most statistical categories, starting the second most games, with the second best goals against average, and second most shutouts. With Lundqvist likely to make it to at least the second round of the playoffs, Lack was an obvious choice for Team Sweden.

No other goaltenders have been named to Sweden as of yet, with only four skaters named so far. It’s tough to say how many games Lack will appear in without knowing who else will be on the team. Robin Lehner and Jhonas Enroth are both out of the playoffs and have previous international experience, but may have declined the invitation, in which case the other goaltender(s) would be selected from the Swedish Hockey League.

Watching the tournament can be tough at times. In North America in particular, the World Championship is an afterthought, taking place at the same time as the Stanley Cup Playoffs in a far-off country in a completely different time zone. This year, for example, the tournament takes place in Minsk, Belarus, which is a full 10 hours ahead of Pacific Time. Team Canada’s games will largely start at 6:30 am Pacific Time, with one game starting at 2:30 am.

If you want to watch non-Canada or USA games on TV, you’re flat out of luck. TSN is only televising Canada and USA during the preliminary round. In past years, games have been streamed on the IIHF’s YouTube channel and the same should be true this year. The upshot is that the games are viewable for watching in their entirety after they’ve finished streaming as well, though I believe Team Canada games will be blocked as they are viewable on TSN.

There are definitely some interesting storylines heading into the tournament: can Sweden repeat as gold medallists? Can Canada win double-gold in 2014? Heck, can they win a medal? Canada hasn’t won a medal at the tournament since 2009 and hasn’t won gold since 2007. Can Switzerland repeat their unlikely performance from last year and come away with a medal?

Canucks fans, however, will likely only have eyes for their own players.

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