Being a hockey hero a surreal experience for Dawes

PAUL FRIESEN -- Winnipeg Sun

, Last Updated: 7:50 AM ET

It's all come flooding back for Nigel Dawes this week. It's like he's been transported back in time, to 1999, when he was just a 14-year-old watching the best juniors players in the world.

Like so many Winnipeggers, he was captivated by the World Junior Hockey Championship.

Only this time, Dawes is on the other side of the glass, wearing the jersey as he flies around the ice, a member of Team Canada.

"They were your heroes," Dawes recalled yesterday. "And now I'm someone's hero. It just sends chills down my spine. The fact I get to go to camp here in Winnipeg just brings back so many memories. The chance I have is just great."

A high-scoring forward with the Kootenay Ice of the WHL, Dawes led Team Canada with six goals at last year's tournament.

He's one of a dozen returning players. So he knows as well as anybody what this gig is all about.

"You're Canada's team for three weeks," he said. "You're followed, you're scrutinized, they're all over you ... It's a great feeling, just to know how many people are watching, rooting for you. The support you get, the e-mails you get, it's hard to put into words.

"You win a game, everyone loves you. You lose a game, it's like 'What are you doing wrong?' But it's part of the game. You just have fun with it."

Dawes has had a blast this week, despite the pressure of trying to make this team again.

"Pretty much everyone in here knows everyone ... it's just a good, fun group of guys," he said. "There's time to have fun and time to get down to business. And everyone knows the difference."

Barring a shocking decision by coach Brent Sutter, Dawes will be one of 22 players named to the final roster tomorrow, and he'll be on his way to Grand Forks for Christmas.

If anyone had told him back in '99 that he'd be in this position ...

"I would have laughed at them," Dawes said.

Six years later, you still can't wipe the grin off his face.

A CROSBY CHRISTMAS: When most kids think about Christmas, they're dreaming of train sets, BB guns or computer games.

Sidney Crosby wasn't like most kids.

"It was Christmas, but I always think about world juniors," Crosby said. "That's the funnest part."

Still only 17, Crosby is getting ready to play in his second WJHC.

He's part of a talented team that has a good shot at winning Canada's first gold medal since 1997.

Growing up in Cole Harbour, N.S., Crosby remembers watching that tournament, and the streak that preceded it.

"I watched all those games when they won the gold medals, five in a row," Crosby said. "You can remember getting up early in the morning, four in the morning when it was in Russia or something, and having people over to watch it."


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