Kevin Bieksa would prefer not to be in Minsk right now.
He’d far rather be in North America, where the NHL postseason is taking place. But the Canucks didn’t earn a ticket to that ride, leaving Bieksa, along with teammates Alex Burrows and Jason Garrison (and former teammate Cody Hodgson — awkward) available to join Team Canada’s squad at the World Championships in Belarus.
Still, as consolation prizes go, this one has been pretty incredible for Bieksa. He didn’t just get a call to represent Team Canada — he got the call for the first time in his pro career. And on Thursday, he also became the first player with no previous international experience to be named Team Canada’s captain.
It’s more than that, though. Bieksa’s been an alternate before, several times. He’s worn an “A” in Vancouver for five years. He also did so in his final year with the Manitoba Moose, and his last two years at Bowling Green State University. But as far as we can tell, this is the first captaincy of his career, and that’s going all the way back to his youth club days with the Grimsby Peach Kings.
According to coach Dave Tippett, Bieksa got the nod because he plays hard and with passion, and does so with that trademark smirk. From Stephen Whyno at the Canadian Press:
One thing Canada’s leadership group has in common is a love for keeping things light on the ice. That’s part of what Bieksa thinks his role is, but he also expects his teammates to take the tournament seriously.
“Just to keep guys loose having fun and then focused for the games,” the Vancouver Canucks defenceman said. “Everybody’s coming over here for a purpose. We didn’t fly all this way just to have a good time. We flew here to win games and to continue on the standard that Canada set at the Olympics. We’re going to come to compete.”
But it’s also because Juice is an elder statesman on a very young team. At 32, he’s the fourth-oldest player on the roster, behind 35-year-old Jason Chimera, the only guy in the room with a gold medal, 33-year-old Joel Ward, and Alex Burrows, who was born two months before Bieksa.
Burrows, who didn’t get an “A” — as shown in the above photo, those went to the aforementioned old, gold Chimera, and Kyle Turris, Canada’s first-line center — will still be counted on as an on-ice leader as well. He’s got some experience, since he was on this team in 2012, and he’ll be the old man on the top line, alongside Turris and Nathan MacKinnon, who are 8 and 12 years his junior, respectively.
The older guys will be counted on to lead and to settle the nerves of a core that includes youngsters like Nathan MacKinnon, Sean Monahan, Jonathan Huberdeau, and Mark Scheifele, among whom only the last can walk into a bar and order a drink in the United States, Indonesia, and Sri Lanka.
Team Canada opens the tournament on Friday versus France.Tags: Alex Burrows, Kevin Bieksa, World Championship