VANCOUVER -- For a second, Kyle Chipchura laughed and didn't know what to say.
When told that his Canada teammates use his difficult experience of a year ago as inspiration, the world junior team's captain hesitated.
"Well, I guess I never really thought about it that way," Chipchura said. "But it was a tough time for me and it made me stronger down the road."
What happened to Chipchura on Dec. 3, 2004, with the Prince Albert Raiders would have been enough to rattle anyone. During practice, a teammate's skate severed Chipchura's Achilles tendon. For a month, he could put no weight on it.
"It was a huge blow, the biggest injury I had ever faced," Chipchura said after practice yesterday. "I was lucky because it was a clean cut, and that heals quicker. There was nothing I could do to reverse it, so I worked hard to get back, and I had no problems with the surgery. Things went my way."
An injury that would have spelled at least the end of the season for some did not for Chipchura. By the time the Western league playoffs rolled around, he was back in the lineup and had 11 points in 14 post-season games.
Canada coach Brent Sutter, who has the same role with the Red Deer Rebels, took notice. What he saw in Chipchura's desire helped Chipchura become Canada's captain.
"There was talk (at the time) he would be out for at least the year, and there was even some talk he might be done period," Sutter said. "For him to come back like he did said a lot about his determination and his heart. I knew the kid and coached against him. You can spot leaders very easily on other teams. First and foremost for him is his team."
The 18th overall pick by the Montreal Canadiens in 2004, it's probable Chipchura will one day be driving a stake into the hearts of Maple Leafs fans. He is not a prolific goal-scorer, but does just about everything else well.
"What he went through puts things in perspective, and says that a hockey career can be cut short at any time," said Andrew Cogliano, one of Chipchura's linemates here.
"He brings a lot of what he went through to the team and that is great for us."