VANCOUVER -- Cam Barker is the only Canadian player here with a gold medal from the 2005 world junior championship, and he also is the lone Canadian with unfinished business.
Barker, 19, the lone returnee from the star-studded 2005 team, missed the final three games last year when he was diagnosed with mononucleosis.
The defenceman had returned home to Winnipeg for a couple of Canada's games, and though he was back in Grand Forks, N.D., for the gold-medal win against Russia, he had to watch from the sidelines. Barker was on the ice for the post-game celebration but it just was not the same.
"It was brutal, probably one of the worst days of my life," said Barker, who scored the first goal of last night's win over Norway. "The worst thing about it was not being able to contribute. Without a doubt, I am glad to get another opportunity to win. It's not too often you get a second crack at things and it's fortunate that I do."
Hockey Canada employee Andre Brin was assigned the task of driving Barker home to Manitoba -- through a snowstorm no less -- after Barker became ill.
"He did not want to talk and he just wanted to get home as soon as possible," Brin. "I remember it was a long ride for me too, because I know he did not want (to leave) either. I am sure it means a lot to him to be back."
Barker cherishes the gold medal and said there is no asterisk beside it for him. In the three games he played, he scored one goal.
Only Barker and Sidney Crosby were eligible to return from last year, and Crosby of course has been doing well with the Pittsburgh Penguins.
But Barker nearly was not back, either. A Chicago Blackhawks prospect, he cracked the Hawks roster out of training camp and played in one game before he was returned to the Medicine Hat Tigers of the Western Hockey League.
"My goal going into the season was to stick with the Hawks and it didn't happen," said Barker, who was picked third overall by Chicago in 2004. "But there is lots I could learn from that. I am grateful that I had that opportunity."