Juniors depending on Barker

KEN WIEBE -- Winnipeg Sun

, Last Updated: 12:22 PM ET

WILKES-BARRE, Pa. -- It took a while, but Cam Barker was done feeling sorry for himself a long time ago.

It's still a crying shame Barker came down with mononucleosis during the 2005 World Junior Hockey Championship in Grand Forks, N.D., and was unable to participate in the final three games, but nobody can ever take away his gold medal.

"I don't know (how long it took), but I'm glad I got over it and I'm looking forward to a healthy future," Barker said via telephone from Medicine Hat, Alta., on Thursday.

Barker did what it took to make what many are calling the best entry Canada has ever sent to the tournament and unlike the rest of his teammates, the 19-year-old Winnipegger will actually get a chance to defend the gold medal later this month in Vancouver.

The third overall selection (by the Chicago Blackhawks) in the 2004 NHL entry draft is expected to play a prominent role on what is going to be a young team.

"I haven't seen him much this season because I haven't had to see him," Hockey Canada head scout Blair Mackasey told the Sun earlier this week. "We knew he'd be back to anchor the defence. He's coming back and he realizes this is a chance for it to be his team and for him to be a leader."

Playing a leadership role would suit Barker just fine, though he's not known as a rah-rah guy.

"It's always nice to have people ask that of you -- it's a big responsibility," said Barker. "It's going to be a challenge (being the reigning gold medalists). Some people are saying that we're underdogs and that's fine. We don't think of it quite that way. It's going to be tough, for sure. It's a long road, but the month flies by so we've got to do the best with the time that we've got."

It has already been an interesting season to date for Barker, who made the Blackhawks out of training camp and made his NHL debut against Joe Sakic and the Colorado Avalanche.

"There are a lot of things you can take from it -- you really learn what it's like to be a pro," said Barker. "The big thing was picking up little things, how to be better and how to carry yourself on and off the ice. Those are things I brought back to junior with me."

Barker said Blackhawks head coach Trent Yawney helped make things easier for him.

"He knows how hard it is to come in as a young guy and try to make a roster," said Barker. "He's definitely a players' coach. All the guys respected him. He's unbelievable. A lot of coaches can maybe be hard on you, but that wasn't the case (in Chicago)."

What wasn't easy for Barker at the start of the year was watching as a healthy scratch.

"Being so close, but yet so far is tough," said Barker. "I knew that maybe if I got into a few more games, I could have done a bit more but that wasn't the case. There are always things you can do better and I'm looking forward to going back next year."

In an ideal-world, Barker would have been sent to the Norfolk Admirals of the American Hockey League, but his age prevented that from happening.

That meant Barker was heading back to the Medicine Hat Tigers of the Western Hockey League for a fourth full season -- not a bad consolation prize.

"Of course, I wanted to stay in Chicago but I don't think there was a letdown," said Barker. "I was coming back to a team and an organization I really want to be with. I love it here."

With the Canadian World Junior Hockey Championship tryout camp starting today, Sun hockey writer Ken Wiebe takes a look at how some of our world champs from 2005 are faring this season in part five of a five-part series we call: Golden Boys. Today we focus on Medicine Hat Tigers defenceman Cam Barker.


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