I knew this day was coming and yet it still hurt my heart to learn the news that Alex Burrows has officially retired from the NHL. Heart and soul every shift on the ice and off of the ice in the community.
When I used to tell people that I loved hockey and specifically the Vancouver Canucks and that Alex Burrows was my favourite player, I would get sneers of derision and without a doubt the followup question was always: “how can you root for such a pest? How can Canucks fans possibly root for a guy like Burrows?”
The answer is simple. How could I not root for him? An example of pure determination, constantly working towards his dream and achieving it despite the odds. Undrafted and never meant to make it in the NHL, forever left an indelible mark with a franchise with memorable goals and a massive heart.
From the outside, his opponents and opposition fans merely saw a pest but in Vancouver we saw him as an inspiration. Burrows defied the odds. Never drafted, worked his way up from the ECHL to the QMJHL to the AHL to the NHL. Even when he finally made it, NO ONE could’ve predicted what would occur. Most thought he’d simply be a 4th liner/pest to his opponents for the entirety of his career at best. I doubt anyone even considered that he’d become a first line player or have multiple +25 goal seasons.
There was tons of negativity that came his way from the media and fans that didn’t see what Canucks fans saw on the daily. And he handled it with grace, never let it get to him, rising above it on every occasion. From a rookie to a seasoned veteran mentoring young players, he did it all.
No one could have predicted that he would become the one of the best line mates to skate along with the Sedin twins or score some of the most memorable goals in franchise history. People say that the twins made Burrows and there may be some truth to that BUT no one ever opened up space on the ice for the twins like Burrows. He was also vital in their successes as well. There’s a reason why he was at times considered the “third Sedin”, he seemed to read their passes almost as well as they did and seemed to almost always anticipate the place they passed the puck. For years it was absolute magic.
So while many on the outside remember Burrows for his on ice antics or being a pest, Canucks fans will always remember him for his heart and soul. He gave everything from his humble beginnings of working his way up to the league, to his rookie days to his successes as the Sedins winger to his work off the ice in the community and for using his voice to raise awareness for the importance of mental health.
822 games with the Vancouver Canucks, 913 regular season games overall, not too shabby for a guy who was never drafted. He embodied what it meant to have the heart of a Canuck from the beginning to the end of his career.
So while thank-you hardly seems enough, it’s what we have to offer Alex Burrows. He made Luc Bourdon proud. He made his coaches and teammates proud. He made Canucks fans near and far, endlessly proud. And yes, we will always think fondly of that dragon slaying goal or the goal that ended and 11-game winless streak
And to THIS fan, he will always and forever be a Canuck. I’ve said it before, but it still remains true; when I have felt like giving up, all I have had to do was think of how he always kept pushing forward despite the odds and I would be reminded that when you tune out the negativity, with hard work and perseverance, anything is possible.
Thank-you doesn’t seem quite enough but one more time, it’s what I have to offer. Thank-you for everything, BURR.
As always, until next time, nuck said.