Barker savours junior gold

TED WYMAN -- Winnipeg Sun

, Last Updated: 1:41 PM ET

Vi Barker had to fight through a throng of media just to give her own grandson a hero's welcome, but it was well worth the trouble.

"I'm always proud of him, but what he's done here is wonderful," Barker said moments after her grandson Cam arrived at Winnipeg International Airport with his World Junior Hockey Championship gold medal.

"Being sick last year was devastating for him, but he took it well and look where he is now. It's great."

Cam Barker, a Winnipegger who plays for the Medicine Hat Tigers of the WHL, won his second straight gold medal with Team Canada in Vancouver Thursday night.

The 5-0 victory over the Russians at GM Place was especially sweet for Barker, who was ill with mononucleosis and missed the conclusion of the 2005 championship in Grand Forks, N.D.

"It feels great to contribute because I missed out last year," said Barker, who had two assists in the final. "It was hard sitting in the stands knowing you couldn't help out the team, so it was great to play in the game and contribute the way I did."

'THAT'S HUGE'

Barker finished the tournament with two goals and four assists and had a stellar plus-minus rating of plus-6.

Remarkably, he was never on the ice for a goal by the opposing team during the tournament.

"That's huge." Barker said. "I didn't penalty kill much, but still, it's something that doesn't happen very often."

After a wild on-ice celebration that was shared by a sellout crowd in Vancouver and fans across the country, Barker said he spent the rest of the evening celebrating with his parents, his brother, his grandfather and the coaching staff.

TIRED BUT CONTENTED

He arrived home looking tired but contented.

So, where does he go from here?

"My bed to sleep for a while. I need some rest.

"It's good to be back in Winnipeg and get a little break. It's been a stressful kind of month, but it turned out pretty good."

He'll get plenty of opportunity to relax after getting a week off from the Tigers.

It's a nice situation, considering fellow Winnipeggers Dustin Boyd (Moose Jaw of the WHL) and Jonathan Toews (University of North Dakota), went straight back to their teams from Vancouver.

"They were both unbelievable," Barker said. "Jonathan had a ton of pressure on him coming into this tournament, and he played well on a top line. Dustin was arguably our best forward. He led the team in goals, he hit, he can do everything."

Barker was asked to compare this year's team with the one that won gold in Grand Forks with stars such as Sidney Crosby, Dion Phaneuf, Patrice Bergeron, Mike Richards and Jeff Carter in the lineup.

He said the only comparison that matters is the final result, and that was the same.

"The team last year was unbelievably talented, and this year was more hard work and determination and goaltending was huge," he said. "When you look back on it, both teams were great."

The one constant with the two teams was Brent Sutter's coaching.

"Whenever you get a bunch of guys together for something this big, people really have to put aside their egos," he said. "Mr. Sutter was able to get guys to do that right off the bat, and that's why he's so successful wherever he coaches."

Barker said this is a memory he will cherish forever.

It was even enough to take away the sting of being cut by the NHL's Chicago Blackhawks earlier this season.

"It seemed like halfway through the second we were already counting down the seconds, and the third seemed like the longest period ever," he said of the final game.

"It's the top (memory) for sure. When you win something for your country it makes it that much more special."


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