Alexandre Burrows

Alexandre Burrows, Vancouver Canucks

Alexandre Ménard-Burrows (born April 11, 1981) is a Canadian professional ice hockey winger with the Vancouver Canucks of the National Hockey League (NHL). He is known for playing in the style of an agitator[1][2] and for his ascension to the NHL from being an undrafted player in the ECHL.[2][3] After a two-year career in the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League (QMJHL), he played in the minor leagues for three seasons. He was signed by the Canucks in 2005 from their American Hockey League (AHL) affiliate, the Manitoba Moose. Burrows established himself as a checking forward with the Canucks in his first three NHL seasons before emerging as a scorer with two consecutive seasons of at least 20 goals and 50 points, beginning in 2008–09.

Before making it to the NHL, Burrows also enjoyed a prolific ball hockey career, competing in national and international tournaments in the summers.[4] He was named the International Ball Hockey Player of the Year in 2005 and was inducted into the Canadian Ball Hockey Hall of Fame in 2010.

Playing career

Junior and minor leagues

Burrows played two seasons in the QMJHL with the Shawinigan Cataractes, beginning in 2000–01. He recorded 16 goals and 30 points over 63 regular season games, then added three points over 10 post-season games. The following season, he improved to 35 goals and 70 points over 64 games, third in team-scoring, behind Jonathan Bellemare and Jason Pominville.[5] He then went on to lead his team in post-season scoring with nine goals and 20 points in 12 games[5] as the Cataractes advanced to the Conference Finals, where they were eliminated in seven games by the Victoriaville Tigres.

Undrafted by an NHL club, Burrows went professional in 2002–03 with the Greenville Grrrowl of the ECHL, a third-tier minor league. Late in his professional rookie season, he transferred to the Baton Rouge Kingfish and finished with a combined 32 points in 66 games between the two teams. The following season, in 2003–04, he returned to the South Division, as he was signed by the Columbia Inferno. Early in the season, he was signed by Columbia’s AHL affiliate, the Manitoba Moose, on October 21, 2003,[6] having been scouted by Moose general manager Craig Heisinger.[7] He debuted in two AHL games for Manitoba before being sent back down to the ECHL. Shortly after his return, he was suspended for three games and fined an undisclosed amount by the league for abusing officials during a game on October 24 against the Greensboro Generals.[8] Later on in the season, he was named to the 2004 ECHL All-Star Game for the Eastern Conference and recorded one assist.[6][9] He went on to finish the season with 29 goals and 73 points, second in points among Columbia players to league-scoring champion Tim Smith.[10]

In the subsequent off-season, Burrows was re-signed by the Moose on August 3, 2004.[6] He was initially sent back down to the ECHL after a training camp both he and head coach Randy Carlyle both described as disappointing.[11] Following an injury to Wade Brookbank, he was recalled on October 29, 2004.[11][12] He then scored his first AHL goal with the Moose on November 4, 2004, a game winning goal against goaltender David LeNeveu of the Utah Grizzlies in a 2–1 win.[13] He finished the 2004–05 season with Manitoba and posted 26 points over 72 games in a fourth-line role.[14]

Vancouver Canucks

Having worked his way up from the ECHL, Burrows’ energetic play in the minors earned him a two-way contract with the Moose’s NHL affiliate, the Vancouver Canucks, on November 9, 2005.[15] He had appeared earlier in the Canucks’ training camp for the 2005–06 season, but was sent back to the Moose.[16] After recording 30 points in 33 games with the Moose, he was re-called by the Canucks on January 2, 2006.[17] Eight days later, Burrows scored his first career NHL goal against Ed Belfour of the Toronto Maple Leafs on January 10.[18] He also added an assist as the Canucks won the game 4–3.[18] Establishing himself on the Canucks roster, he added his first NHL career hat trick on March 27, 2006, in a 7–4 win against the Los Angeles Kings.[19] He finished with seven goals and 12 points over 43 games in his NHL rookie campaign. Burrows’ ascension to the NHL has been attributed to his hard-working and abrasive style of play, generating momentum for his team and aggravating opposing players.[20]

An ice hockey player dressed in a blue jersey with blue and green trim. He is stretching with one knee on the ice and the other lunged forward. He rests his stick on one leg while looking forward.

Burrows in 2009

Burrows completed his first full campaign with the Canucks the following season in 2006–07. He contributed primarily on the team’s penalty kill,[21] which ranked first in the league.[22] Burrows’ average shorthanded ice time per game was second among team forwards, behind Ryan Kesler.[23] He struggled to produce offensively, however, and recorded a career-low three goals and nine points in 81 games.

In 2007–08, Burrows formed an effective two-way shutdown duo with center Ryan Kesler on the third line, countering opposing teams’ top players while contributing offensively, as well.[24][25] During the season, he was fined an undisclosed amount by the league after spearing Detroit Red Wings forward Aaron Downey at centre ice during the two teams’ pre-game skate on February 23, 2008.[26] He finished the campaign with 12 goals, 31 points and a team-high plus-minus of +11.[27] He was voted by Canucks fans to receive the team’s Most Exciting Player Award and the Fred J. Hume Award, given to the team’s “unsung hero” as voted by the Canucks Booster Club.[28]

After remaining on the third line with Kesler at the start of the following season, head coach Alain Vigneault separated the two after the All-Star break, placing Burrows on the first line with Daniel and Henrik Sedin, beginning on February 12, 2009, during a game against the Phoenix Coyotes.[29] Burrows’ crash-the-net style – skating hard to the opposing team’s goalmouth for rebounds or tip-ins – combined well with the Sedins’ cycling plays.[30] Vigneault’s line adjustments were precipitated by a losing streak in January, which Burrows was instrumental in breaking. The Canucks’ winless streak had extended to eight games until February 3, 2009, when Burrows broke a 3–3 tie with a shorthanded breakaway goal with 82 seconds remaining in regulation.[31] Shortly thereafter, the Canucks extended his contract with a four-year, $8 million deal on February 4, 2009,[32] quadrupling his $525,000 salary.[33] On April 3, he was selected by the Professional Hockey Writers’ Association as the Canucks’ nominee for the Bill Masterton Memorial Trophy, awarded for perseverance, dedication and sportsmanship.[34] Burrows was not shortlisted for the award, however.[35] On April 10, he received his second consecutive Most Exciting Player Award, prior to a game against the Los Angeles Kings.[36]

Playing in a more offensive role on the first line for the latter part of the season, Burrows finished the 2008–09 campaign with 51 points. His 28 goals broke Andrew Brunette‘s mark for the most in a single season by an ECHL alumnus (27 in 2006–07).[37] In the subsequent first round of the 2009 playoffs, Burrows scored the series-winning goal in overtime to sweep the St. Louis Blues. It was his second goal of the game.[38] The Canucks advanced to meet the Chicago Blackhawks in the second round, who defeated them in six games. Burrows’ level of play was noticeably diminished in the Chicago series and it was revealed afterwards that he required surgery to remove bone chips in his left wrist.[39][40] He finished the playoffs with three goals and an assist over 10 games.

An ice hockey player dressed in a blue jersey and a white baseball cap. He is relaxed on the ice with both hands on opposite ends of his stick across his torso.

Burrows at the Canucks 2009 SkillsCompetition

The following season, Burrows recorded back-to-back hat tricks against the Columbus Blue Jackets and Phoenix Coyotes on January 5 and 7, 2010, respectively.[41] It marked the first time an NHL player notched consecutive three-goal games since Ilya Kovalchuk in November 2007 and the first time a Canucks player did so since Petri Skriko in 1986.[41] With six goals and an assist over two games, Burrows was named the NHL First Star of the Week on January 11, 2010.[42]

NHL officials controversy

The night of his first star of the week selection, Burrows and the Canucks played a controversial game against the Nashville Predators. With the game tied 2–2 in the third period, Burrows was penalized twice by referee Stéphane Auger – once for diving and the other for interference.[43] The latter call was deemed questionable by media sources, including The Sports Network (TSN) and the National Post.[44] The interference penalty along with an additional penalty committed by Henrik Sedin resulted in Nashville’s game-winning, 5-on-3 powerplay goal late in the game.[43] With three seconds to go in regulation, Burrows skated by Auger and protested the interference penalty, resulting in an unsportsmanlike minor and a ten-minute misconduct.[43]

Following the game, Burrows accused Auger of having a personal vendetta against him for a play against the Predators the previous month ithat had made him look bad. After Burrows had been hit into the boards by Nashville forward Jerred Smithson during a game on December 8, 2009, Auger assessed Smithson with a five-minute major and a match penalty. However, the league later rescinded because it was believed Burrows had embellished injury.[45] Burrows claimed that Auger told him before the January 11 game: “you made me look bad [for calling the Smithscon penalty] so I’m going to get you back tonight.” He went on to tell reporters that Auger “should stay out for the rest of the year making calls like that … We just blew two points because of his officiating tonight.”[43]

The following day, the NHL fined Burrows US$2,500 for publicly criticizing Auger and deemed that his claims “cannot be substantiated.”[46] Later that week, the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC)’s Hockey Night in Canada telecast aired an 11-minute segment hosted by Ron MacLean and NHL vice-president Colin Campbell reviewing Burrows’ past transgressions, spanning two years. The segment was widely criticized for being biased against Burrows and failing to illustrate both sides of the argument.[47] Burrows’ parents subsequently issued a formal letter of complaint to the CBC, accusing MacLean of “verbal assassination” and for displaying “no journalistic balance.”[48]

The following Saturday after the segment aired, the Canucks refused any interviews with the CBC before, during or after their game against the Chicago Blackhawks, which was broadcasted on Hockey Night in Canada.[49] The boycott was ordered by Canucks general manager Mike Gillis after MacLean refused to apologize.[50] CBC and Canucks reprentatives later agreed in a conference call to “move on” and team players were allowed to resume interviews.[50]

Vancouver Canucks (cont’d)

Later in the 2009–10 season, Burrows left during a game against the Los Angeles Kings after being hit in the throat by a Jarret Stoll slapshot.[51] He was not injured, however, and did not miss any games thereafter. He finished the season with a career-high 35 goals, 32 assists, 67 points and a +34 rating. His goals total ranked first on the Canucks.[52] Fans voted him as recipient of the team’s Most Exciting Player Award for the third consecutive season.[53]

Burrows struggled to score in the playoffs, however. In 12 games, he scored three goals, two of which were into empty nets,[54] and notched three assists. The Canucks advanced to the second round past the Los Angeles Kings, where they were eliminated by the Chicago Blackhawks for the second consecutive year. It was revealed in the off-season that Burrows was suffering from a shoulder injury. He underwent surgery for it on June 14, 2010.[54]

Ball hockey career

Medal record
Competitor for Canada
Ball hockey
World Championships
Gold 2005 United States
Gold 2003 Switzerland

Burrows began playing organized ball hockey at the age of nineteen.[55] In 2001, he won his first national championship with the Montreal Red Lites in British Columbia.[56] Burrows went on to win the national championship in every year he played with the Red Lites.[56] He was the tournament scoring leader in 2002 and 2003 and earned All-Star Team honours from 2002 to 2004.[57][58][59] In 2005, Burrows scored two goals in a 5–2 win against the Toronto Midnight Express in the national final to capture his fifth consecutive Canadian title with the Red Lites.[60] Burrows was named the Tournament MVP by the Canadian Ball Hockey Association (CBHA).[61] He returned the following year to lead the Red Lites to a sixth consecutive title in 2006.[62]

Burrows made his first appearance on the international stage in ball hockey when he was named to Canada’s national ball hockey team for the 2003 World Championships in Sierre, Switzerland.[63] He helped Canada beat the Czech Republic 6–1 in the final.[56] Tying for the lead in tournament scoring with five goals and 10 points,[4] Burrows was named the Most Valuable Forward.[64] Two years later, in 2005, he won his second World Championship in as many appearances with Canada in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.[16][60] He capped the season off by being named the 2005 International Player of the Year by the International Street and Ball Hockey Federation (ISBHF).[65] The following year, he was voted in a Canadian poll as the country’s greatest ball hockey player.[55]

Burrows has credited ball hockey for his fitness and discipline which has carried over to the NHL.[55] Following his first full season with the Canucks in 2006–07, Burrows retired from his ball hockey career. In 2010, he was inducted into the Canadian Ball Hockey Hall of Fame, along with national teammate and goaltender Michel Perodeau.[56]

Personal life

Burrows was born in Pointe-Claire, Québec, to parents Rodney and Carole.[66] His father immigrated from London, England, at 23, while his mother, a Québec native, is an elementary school principal. Burrows has two sisters, as well – one older and one younger.[66][67] He grew up speaking mostly French and attended French schools.[66] He returns in the off-season to Montréal.[33] In the summer of 2009, Burrows proposed to his longtime girlfriend Nancy Roy on the Grand Canal in Venice.[68] They married the following summer.[68]

Burrows was the closest friend on the Canucks to former teammate Luc Bourdon, who died in a motorcycle accident in May 2008.[69] In the hockey season following his death, Burrows occasionally celebrated goals with a bow-and-arrow mime, a gesture that Bourdon himself did after scoring during his junior career.[69] He and his wife remained close to Bourdon’s girlfriend, Charlene Ward.[68]

In the 2009 off-season, Burrows was involved in an assault incident while playing in a summer ice hockey league. Police were called to an arena in Kirkland, Québec, on July 21 after Burrows allegedly struck a goaltender, 19-year-old Koray Celik, in the face. No arrests, however, were made at the scene.

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