By now you surely know Alex Burrows has been traded.
A quick glance at your social media timeline will confirm it. Sandwiched amongst the Trump tweets and Oscar memes, you will find hundreds of gifs of Burrows slaying the dragon against Chicago.
“The Canucks are trading Burrows tomorrow.”
If you read enough of the tweets, you might even think that Alex Burrows recently died. The way people glowingly talk of Burrows and his career here certainly borders on over the top reverence.
After all, if you’re not from Vancouver and you simply check Burrows’ career stats, you might walk away confused.
“Sure, 384 points and 822 games played is a solid career, but it’s nothing special. If it wasn’t for my bum knee I could have gotten that!” you tell your beer league buddies after a solid 12-9 win at 8 Rinks.
But that’s the thing about Burrows. He kind of excelled under the shroud of “nothing special”. It was kind of his thing. It’s how he worked his way all the way from being a Canadian ball hockey God to being a key figure for the Vancouver Canucks in their infamous 2011 Stanley Cup run. After all, if Kesler was the legs of the 2011 core, and the Sedins were the brains, Alex Burrows? He was the heart.
Which again, just underscores how bananas it was that Alex Burrows was out there, scoring goals, biting fingers, and being a pest, in hockey’s biggest game. This from a guy who went un-drafted in the NHL.
But if you look back at his career, you can see the same pattern repeat itself. Burrows, tossed to the bottom of the pile and forgotten about, grinding his way up the lineup. With the Shawinigan Cataractes in the QMJHL, he was a fourth liner, watching future team-mate Radim Vrbata pile up the points while he grinded out his 30 points on the fourth line.
The next year? He watched as Pominville exploded for 121 points. Except this time? Well Alex Burrows doubled his output to 70 points, tied for third in team scoring.
The NHL though? They didn’t care. They had no time for a young kid from the QMJHL with a plucky spirit and elite ball hockey skills. He wasn’t a sure enough bet for them. So in a scene straight out of Rudy, Burrows had to make a choice. Give up on hockey, or fight for his dream.
Well, fight he did. And so began several years of Burrows trying to prove his worth. He played for a variety of teams that sounded more like Batman villains than actual teams.
The Greenville Grrowl.
Yes, that’s right, they have three ‘r”s in their name. Get it? Grrrrr. Grrrrrowl.
Their logo looks like a puppy that wants to play fetch.
If you’ll excuse me, I need to dry heave.
Up next? The Baton Rouge Kingfish.
Tell me you can’t picture Batman fighting someone named after that team.
“Well I say, I say, if it isn’t Mister Batman. Can I interest you in some of this here cornbread?”
Yes, I picture Foghorn Leghorn as the voice for this character.
Now, do I have questions about how a fish can hold a hockey stick? Sure, we all do. But we should probably move on.
Burrows’ first year in the ECHL? He got 32 points.
His second year? He once again doubled down and got 73 points.
Alex Burrows, working away, proving everyone wrong, yet again.
Next on the career docket? The Columbia Inferno. Which fair enough, is a pretty sweet name.
Still sounds like a mid 90’s roller hockey team name, but cool nonetheless.
Once again we run into a weird dog based logo, however. This one looks like a dog with a bone you’re trying to take away.
If you’re a child, do you want to hug that angry looking dog? Probably not.
Still, Burrows made it to the Inferno, and used his play there to once again move up the ladder. This time to the AHL Manitoba Moose (which sounds downright boring at this point).
One step away from the NHL.
Now to many people, making it to the AHL is a giant accomplishment in and of itself. A lot of people wouldn’t have been able to work their way up to that level of hockey.
And in fact, Burrows bounced around a couple of times between the ECHL Inferno and the Manitoba Moose. There was plenty of time in there to think to yourself “maybe I should look for a normal job and forget about this hockey thing.” Except Burrows kept working away. And he kept working. And he eventually got called up to the Vancouver Canucks in 2005.
Alex Burrows, NHL hockey player.
And AGAIN, that was also a point in which many people would have been damn proud to obtain. Having a cup of tea in The Show? That’s the sort of thing you can use as a pick up line in bars for the rest of your life. Burrows, though, kept plugging away.
And initially we all saw him as a fourth line agitator. The dime a dozen guy who can play a couple of seasons for your team, maybe provide a few laughs annoying the shit out of the other team, then see ya later. 12 points in 43 games and 9 points in 81 games in his first two seasons seemed to confirm that.
Except Burrows did what he always does. He put his head down. He did what the team wanted from him. And he still managed to find a way to raise his game.
He puts out a 31 point season in 2008. He gets voted the most exciting player on the team. He gets voted the unsung hero of the team. He in fact gets voted the most exciting player three years in a row, proving he wasn’t a horrifying Zack Kassian anomaly.
All of a sudden Vancouver is loving them some Alex Burrows. Even better, they are loving how Ryan Kesler and Alex Burrows are turning into some buddy cop film. One guy a french Canadian, the other a guy from Michigan. Except they’re both bad cops, there is no good cop. Suddenly visions of the Canucks having Frick and Frack out on the ice, being an elite top level 3rd line duo float through Canucks Nation’s head. Tell Kelly we said hi.
But of course, it gets better. Suddenly one day, during an extended losing streak, Alain Vigneault comes up with a plan. The ol “I’ll just toss someone new with the Sedins and see what happens” plan.
The first thing that stood out? That move. The infamous breakaway move Burrows would use for many years to terrorize goalies.
Secondly? That goal celebration. Snapping the stick over the leg. Iconic.
The goal that turned around the season.
The goal that led to Burrows playing with the Sedins for many many seasons.
The goal that led to slaying a dragon.
The goal that led to a Burraparound.
The goal that led to Alex Burrows being a key figure in so many emotional situations. If there was a big moment, Alex Burrows wouldn’t be too far away from it. It didn’t even have to be a hockey situation. When Luc Bourdon passed away, there was Alex Burrows celebrating a goal in his honor.
It was moments like these that made Alex Burrows such a special player for so many people.
It’s also why when the media and other fans would go after Burrows, or when Ron MacLean went on his vindictive war path and used mind reading technology to try and bury Burrows for having the audacity to call out a bad referee, it just made people in Vancouver rally around Burrows even stronger.
Ron MacLean continued his war with Burrows for several seasons, even talking about how Burrows might have opened a gate up intentionally to hurt an opponent.
Which led to the world’s worst apology in which Ron name drops once again how he’s a referee, so you know, calm down.
“I’m sorry you guys got offended. We just like to have fun! Grapes? GRAPES IS THAT YOU? I’m a ref you know. Mike Gillis doesn’t know what the hell you’re talking about. GRAPES IS THAT YOU??”
But I digress.
The point is, there was, and still is, a reputation of Burrows being a trashy player. His reputation of being an agitator? Well deserved early on in his career. Burrows did what he had to do to make the team, and he has to own the fact he was pretty lippy during that time. I think Burrows would agree he regrets some of the things he said during that time.
The biting of the fingers, the hair pulling, again, not something he is going to be proud of. It’s not a great look in the macho world of hockey.
But what confuses people is how Brad Marchand was getting celebrated in 2011 (even to this day some people gun after Burrows more than Marchand), while Burrows’ was being buried. And Burrows, once again at the heart of an emotional conflict, became a kind of center piece of the “us vs them” mentality that was such a key part of that 2011 core. For some reason, that team was pretty much hated by everyone else.
Maybe it was because they won so much. Maybe it was because they had some cocky players.
Whatever the reason is, people outside Vancouver just really learned to hate them. Which yes, isn’t that shocking. Good teams get hated all the time. What WAS shocking was the level of hate Vancouver got.
Mark Recchi calling the 2011 Canucks the most hated team he’s ever played against? Really?
It’s weird. It really is. This isn’t a team that stood head and shoulder above other teams with dirty hits. This wasn’t a team that had a lot of players who actively tried to hurt people with illegal hits. Oddly enough Raffi Torres was probably their dirtiest player in 2011 yet Burrows got more hate than him.
There was just this big wave of “**** you Vancouver” that made people circle their wagons in BC. It’s what made 2011 such a big deal. Any Stanley Cup Finals is big, but there was something extra involved in that one. It truly felt like Vancouver vs The World. We actually watched as a Bruins team physically beat up, and broke, the Canucks, and somehow the Canucks were made out to be the dirty villains in all of it.
It still doesn’t make a whole lot of sense.
Burrows was a central figure in all of it, though, so you’re god damn straight we defended our boy. Alex Burrows was one of us, so screw you for talking shit about him. Damn straight he bit someone’s finger, why you putting finger in his mouth anyways?? Sure, he could be a jerk on the ice, but what team doesn’t have those guys? Hate him on other teams, love him on yours, we all know those players. We had your back, Alex.
In the years that followed the Cup run, Burrows career continued. He scored fewer points. He began getting less time with the Sedins. Eventually he was relegated to the bottom lines, to the point where people wondered if he should be bought out of his contract.
But this is Alex Burrows we’re talking about. Just when you think he’s out, he finds a way back in.
All of a sudden in 2017, there’s Alex Burrows on the Canucks best line with Baertschi and Horvat. All of a sudden, there’s Alex Burrows chipping in goals again. All of a sudden, there’s Alex Burrows helping Bo Horvat and Sven Baertschi up their game.
And then even at the trade deadline, there’s Alex Burrows. Agreeing to go to Ottawa. Getting a contract extension with Ottawa, helping the Canucks get the most value from him.
Even until the end, Alex Burrows remained the ultimate team player. There is a reason Ottawa wanted to trade for him, even if mostly for his impact on the room.
Every once in a while a player comes along to a city that people just connect to. And yes, the Sedins are the best players in Canucks history. People love them, no one doubts that. When they retire, there will be speeches for days.
But not in the same way people love Burrows. Maybe it’s because we can relate to Burrows and his never ending fight to live out the ultimate Canadian dream. Maybe it’s because Burrows wore his emotions on his sleeve. As good as the Sedins are, they are very muted with their emotions. Coldly efficient, like a step father who loves you but can’t quite figure out how to show it.
Kesler could have been loved, but he was like a shallow, hot girlfriend/boyfriend. Great in bed (playoffs), but you knew it wouldn’t last, so you just tried to enjoy it while you could. Now you stalk his Facebook timeline while drinking at night.
Alex Burrows was special, though. And this might seem overly dramatic. Maybe it’s coming across too strong. But take a look in a coffee shop on game day. Go look in your grandma’s closet. Gaze around the stands at a Canucks game. You’ll see a name on a lot of those jerseys.
Alex Burrows, a guy who started at the bottom, and worked his way to the top.
A guy who became a fan favorite.
A guy who became a leader on the best team in Canucks history.
A guy who was part of one of the greatest Cup runs in Canucks history.
A guy who just wanted to win da turd, you know?
He will be missed in Vancouver.
He will forever be a Canuck.