Golden juniors are all business

PAUL FRIESEN -- Winnipeg Sun

, Last Updated: 11:02 AM ET

There was a reunion, of sorts, in Cranbrook, B.C., last night. Winnipegger Nigel Dawes, part of Canada's world champion junior team, came face-to-face with his head coach, Brent Sutter, for the first time since the tournament.

Dawes is a forward with the Western Hockey League's Kootenay Ice, Sutter the boss of the Red Deer Rebels.

"I'm sure he's going to be sending guys after me, and I'm going to be trying to put the puck in (his) net," Dawes told me before the game.

Gee, makes you feel warm and fuzzy all over, doesn't it?

By the way, Kootenay hasn't lost since Dawes' return, a streak of 12 games.

It was a big night for Winnipeg's Cam Barker, too.

The 18-year-old, you'll recall, missed the gold-medal game with a case of mononucleosis.

Talk about a long road back to health. Last night in Lethbridge, Alta., the Medicine Hat Tigers defenceman was expected to play his first game since.

We can only imagine how much he's been champing at the bit.

Barker is so competitive, he tried to get himself cleared to play the morning of the gold-medal game, getting his family doctor to call the Team Canada doctor in Grand Forks, N.D.

"Hopefully, he can take it out on the Hurricanes," Tigers marketing director Dave Andjelic said from Medicine Hat, Alta., yesterday.

Barker has actually felt good for a while, but a CT scan two weeks ago suggested his spleen might still be enlarged.

This past week, doctors scanned the rest of him and decided he might just have big organs.

The third Winnipegger lugging around gold-medal memories these days is goaltender Reg Beauchemin, the St. Boniface product who straps 'em on for the Prince Albert Raiders of The Dub.

Our three gold medallists may have settled back into the grind, but every so often they'll get a reminder of what was the biggest thrill of their lives.

Sometimes, that reminder is wearing an enemy jersey.

"You look at 'em, and you know you're thinking the same thing right away," Dawes said. "You have that bond. But once you're on the ice, it's business as usual."

DON'T TOUCH THAT: Neepawa's Shane Hnidy, a Nashville Predators defenceman, has a good analogy when it comes to NHL owners needing a salary cap to protect themselves from each other.

"It's like the kid who puts their hand on the coffee pot and burns it," Hnidy was saying the other day. "How many times are they going to do it? They basically want a system that's idiot-proof. Is that fair?"

No, it's not. But that doesn't mean they're not going to get it, one way or another.

DAMAGE CONTROL: I see the Dallas Stars are worried about losing fans because of the NHL lockout.

"If we think the fans are just going to come right back, we're being flippant and stupid," Stars president Jim Lites told the Dallas Morning News. "We're going to have to come back as a different animal."

If the Stars are concerned, can you imagine the enormous challenge they'll be facing in Nashville, Carolina or Florida?

ENOUGH, ALREADY: As if we didn't have enough reasons to disrespect NHL commissioner Gary Bettman and players' union boss Bob Goodenow. Pretending there's still time to salvage some sort of NHL season is an insult to our intelligence.

End it. Today.

BIG CAT REMEMBERED:

That was quite the collection of ex-Blue Bombers at Bobby Thompson's memorial service this past Thursday.

Part of the standing-room-only crowd of 200-plus at the United Church in Headingley were former Thompson teammates James Reed, Frank Robinson, Joe Poplawski, James Murphy, Paul Bennett and Bob Toogood.

A massive stroke nine days ago cut down the former O-lineman far too soon, at age 47.

But it was good to see "Big Cat" had plenty of friends in this town.


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