December 14, 2011
Canada's walking wounded stick around
By TERRY JONES, QMI Agency
CALGARY - Nobody whispered in their ears. Nobody tipped the hand. Nobody offered the slightest clue.
Canada’s two high-profile walking wounded players had to suffer along with all the healthy guys.
Jonathan Huberdeau, the No. 3 overall pick in last year’s NHL Entry Draft, who has been out with a broken foot and yet to skate here, tossed and turned all night along with all the other hopefuls.
And Quinton Howden, believed to have suffered a mild concussion resulting from a late hit by Brett Connelly in a Red-vs.-White game, spent the same fitful night as everybody else.
But the dreaded phone calls didn’t come at 6 a.m., and an hour and a half later head coach Don Hay was knocking on their doors to congratulate them for making the team to play for Canada in the 2012 IIHF World Junior Championship, medically cleared to be back in time to be full-fledged members of a 22-man team from the git-go.
“For sure. I was the same as everybody else. I didn’t know how they were going to to handle it,” said Huberdeau, who showed up here wearing a walking cast. “I love the confidence they’re showing in me by making this decision. I hope to be ready for those last two pre-tournament games,” he said of the Dec. 22 game against Switzerland in Red Deer and the Dec. 23 game against Sweden in Edmonton. The tournament opener is on Boxing Day in Rexall Place, against Finland.
“It’s just awesome to be picked to play for Canada. Not many players get to go through this,” said the Saint John Seadogs forward who was a Florida Panthers pick in the draft.
Howden, the Moose Jaw Warrior, was also a first-round pick of the Panthers, going 25th overall in 2010.
“Yup. I was the same as everybody else. I didn’t know if I was going to get that call or not,” said the forward who is one of only four players returning from the team that won silver last year.
“I’m not sure what the timeline is going to be on it. We have good doctors. I’m sure they felt I was going to be able to be back out there sooner than later. We’re just going to go forward day-to-day.
“I’m going to come to the rink every day and do whatever I have to do to be ready to play, and play well, when the tournament starts. It’s going to be fantastic to be able to have a second chance to win gold. Losing that final game last year was heartbreaking. This is a whole new team now. And a great chance to do what we weren’t able to do last year and win the gold.”
Howden said he wasn’t going to have a problem with fellow returning player Connolly.
“We’re very good friends. He was just finishing his check. We’ve talked. We’re OK about what happened. We’re going forward together with the idea we’re just going to get this done this time.”
On Twitter: @sunterryjones