A hairy Team Canada came out slow but gained momentum in exhibition against Austria
Brent Burns, seen here in a game against Montreal earlier this season, normally sports a bushy beard but his his bearded Team Canada teammates plan to shave their facial hair off before the start of the World Hockey Championships on Friday. (Postmedia Network)
Looking at the number of beards and scruffy faces of Team Canada players here Wednesday night, you’d figure all these guys who missed the Stanley Cup playoffs had decided to go with playoff beards this year here regardless.
That’s not the case.
For some, like San Jose’s Brent Burns, who pretty much has the mountain man look with the Bobby Clarke toothless grin, it’s his normal look. And with most of the others, it’s not that they’ve decided to resurrect the olden days barnstorming House of David team.
Jordan Eberle is five years into the NHL career with the Edmonton Oilers and has never been required to grow a playoff beard but when the day finally comes, he’s shown great potential here.
But it’s coming off.
“With me, I’m just a little lazy,” he said.
“I just haven’t felt like shaving.
“I think that’s the case with most of the guys.
“Yup. Just lazy,” said Claude Giroux.
The beards and several-day growths they have going, they say, are mostly left over from taking holidays to beach resorts or just bumming around doing next to nothing after their NHL teams were eliminated from the playoffs.
But the game pre-tournament here last night told them it’s time.
Ready. Set. Shave.
The tradition of playoff beards at home for Stanley season and the cleanly shaved look overseas for the Worlds will continue, barring a last minute team vote to the contrary, which might not be a bad idea considering Canada hasn’t won a gold medal since 2007 or a medal of any color since 2009 at the IIHF World Championship.
After a three-day mini camp Team Canada hit the ice and looked like a bunch of guys skating in ocean side sand somewhere for the first period before they started to find their game legs and turn a 2-1 first period deficit into an eventual 4-2 win over Austria before a sellout crowd of 7,000 in the Albert Schultz Eishalle.
“Practice and a game is not really the same,” said Hearst, Ont. product Claude Giroux of the Philadelphia Flyers.
“We were really rusty in the first period. After 40 minutes it started to get a little better. By then we were starting to move the puck a little better. But we’ve got a lot of room for improvement, that’s for sure,” said Giroux.
“We got better as the game went on,” said Eberle, who along with Edmonton teammate Taylor Hall, was on a line with Matt Duchene of the Colorado Avalanche.
“It’s a good sign if you’re getting better. And our line created a lot of chances. I’m excited to get going with those guys and with Sidney Crosby on the power play,” he said of the Pittsburgh Penguin who didn’t dress for this one.
“Fly to Prague. Practice. Play Latvia Friday. I think it’s good. I think it’s the best way to get into it,” said Eberle.
Hall said you have to remind yourself of things every time you come over and play on the big ice.
“It’s a different game. You are skating harder in certain spots than you would in North America on the smaller ice. And you’re kinda gliding and trying to get more into position over here in some weird spots. It’s a bit of an adjustment every time but as the game wore on I thought we got a lot better at that.
“It’s a quick tournament. Suddenly we’re going to be in it and the games are going to start to come really fast.”
Coach Todd McLellan said the tam got better as the game went along.
“We were the slower team in the first period. It took us a little while to engage and understand that we were back at it. Three weeks off can be a pretty long time for some of these players.”
At least they had the periods in the right order.
It wasn’t the good, the bad and the ugly. It was the ugly, the bad and the good.
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