David Bolland didn't take long to utter the words most people in this city wanted to hear.
"I'm OK," he said from Vancouver where he's preparing with his national junior team teammates for the world junior hockey tournament. After hello, they were the next words spoken. "It was nothing serious and I'm ready to go."
That collective sigh you hear is from hockey fans in London, the ownership of the London Knights, the coaching staff of Canada's national junior team and Bolland himself.
Bolland skated off the ice injured Friday during the first practice after Canada's national junior team was selected. He didn't skate again until yesterday. News of the injury made some people nervous. It was classified as an upper body injury. Like many head coaches, Brent Sutter believes in keeping injury problems in-house. He doesn't allow injured players to speak to the media until they are back on the ice.
Even Knights general manager Mark Hunter was in the dark about the injury.
"I'm sure if it was serious they would have called to tell me, wouldn't they?" Hunter said yesterday.
It wasn't and Bolland, the last man to be cut from last year's gold-medal winning team, will get his chance to perform on an international stage.
"It was just my side," Bolland said. "It was a little bruise. It just took a little time to heal.
"I was a little worried at the start because I didn't know how long it would take for treatment. All I want to do after getting cut last year is play."
And play he will.
As a 19-year-old on a young Canadian team with only one player returning from last year's gold-medal team, Bolland is a guy Sutter is counting on as a leader and a scorer. Bolland was named one of the alternate captains. He has been playing on a line with captain Kyle Chipchura of the Prince Albert Raiders and Michigan Wolverine Andrew Cogliano, an Edmonton Oilers first-round draft pick last year.
If this line stays together, they will be expected to carry a heavy load. They've played together since the junior national selection camp a week ago.
"We've really clicked," Bolland said.
"Right from evaluation camp with Chips and Cogs and we're thinking we can really do something in this tournament. I really think we can.
"Cogliano is a good scorer, good skater, always has his head up and knows where everyone is. Chip is one of those guys that just does everything right. He owns the corners, bangs the puck out. He can score, set someone up. He can do it all. With all three of us on that line we can produce a lot and help out defensively a lot as well."
Bolland was as close to a sure thing on the team as there was, especially with his explosive start to the Ontario Hockey League season. He is also the fifth-leading scorer in the Canadian Hockey League.
"I was pretty confident but you never know," Bolland said. "There's always better players around. I just had to work as hard as I could, play my game and be better than everyone else."
That's the sort of credo Sutter likes to hear. Bolland is used to the "work hard and listen" scenario because he plays for Dale Hunter.
"He's sort of like Dale," Bolland said. "Do what you are told. This is the way it's going to go. If not, don't even think about coming out. You won't be playing. Everyone on this team knows what they have to do."
Canada has hunkered down in the town of Chase, B.C. Like Bolland's former Knights teammates, Corey Perry and Danny Syvret who played on last year's team, he is soaking up the atmosphere.
"Chase is awesome," Bolland said. "It's only a town of 2,500 but everyone is running around, excited to have us here, Holy moley, they're all over us. I think the whole town's been out in the rink. It's good."
Bolland understands the responsibility of being named an alternate captain and he loves the responsibility.
"I wanted to come here to be a leader. It's a great honour to have the A on my chest. Hopefully, I can help the team out even more. The A gives you a little more of a role. They are looking at you to lead and you have to step up and never take a night off."
Bolland wishes the tournament would start immediately.
"I've never really played against Russia, the Czechs, the Swedes. I'm so excited I can hardly wait for it to start." he said.
When it does start, he'll be playing against teammate Rob Schremp who is on the U.S. team. Both are in the A pool of the competition.
Another Knights' teammate, winger Sergei Kostitsyn, has just finished leading Belarus to the 2005 world junior pool B championship held in Minsk, Belarus.
Belarus defeated Kazakhstan 5-2 in the final game. Kostitsyn, 18, had four goals and five assists in the tournament.
Belarus is now eligible to take part in the 2007 world junior tournament. Kostitsyn is leading the OHL rookie-scoring race with 45 points. He will be returning to the Knights on Dec. 26.