By Gary Lawless
Winnipeg Free Press
Alexandre Burrows was having lunch with Kevin Bieksa and Josh Green at Earl’s yesterday when a waitress approached to comment on his hat trick from Monday night: “Nice game, Alex,” could be heard over the phone.
If this sounds like a vignette from Mooseland, well, it is and isn’t.
Yes, Burrows, Bieksa and Green have spent much of the last two hockey seasons eating lunch at one Earl’s or another as members of the Manitoba Moose, but right now the three are hanging with the Vancouver Canucks on the Left Coast.
Burrows, who opened last season in the ECHL but is now a regular in the NHL, bagged three against the Los Angeles Kings on Monday night to keep the Canucks’ playoff hopes alive. If the serving staff at Burrows’ favorite downtown eatery is any indication, he was the talk of Vancouver yesterday.
“Not much has changed — except for the paychecks,” laughed the 24-year-old Montrealer, who has seven goals and four assists in 34 games with Vancouver. “For sure it’s going great right now. Monday night was huge for me and the team. I’d been in a bit of a slump and (Monday) night was a must-win. It’s great to contribute with a few goals on a night like that.”
While Burrows is living his moment in the spotlight to the fullest, it has been anything but an easy road to the NHL for the affable but fearsome forward.
Never drafted by the NHL, Burrows turned pro in 2002 and spent two full seasons in the ECHL before earning a job with the Moose. Last fall, the Moose returned him to the Columbia Inferno after training camp but recalled him after just three games and he played the next 72 with the Moose, collecting nine goals and 17 assists and playing his way into GM Craig Heisinger’s heart.
“When they sent me back to Columbia last year, I’d already spent two seasons in the Coast and I started to think about retiring,” Burrows said. “But they gave me one more chance and I tried to make the best of it.”
Under the watchful eye of then-Moose coach Randy Carlyle, Burrows was the consummate eager rookie last season. He hit, fought and whacked at anything that moved in an opposition jersey and worked harder in practice than he did in games.
That attitude is what has carried Burrows to the NHL. He can skate and shoot, but it’s his willingness to play in the so-called “dirty” areas and do the heavy lifting that has endeared him to Canucks coach Marc Crawford and his staff.