Nash joins Team Canada

TERRY JONES -- Sun Media

, Last Updated: 9:20 AM ET

QUEBEC CITY -- For some birds, spring is for flocking to Capistrano. For Columbus Blue Jacket Rick Nash it's for buzzing off to the IIHF World Hockey Championships.

After two weeks recovering from minor throat surgery, last year's MVP in Canada's gold medal win in Moscow, joined Team Canada here yesterday. Again.

Nash has played 363 NHL regular season games and has yet to play a Stanley Cup playoff game.

If there was one regular who could have easily said no to the team it was Nash.

"I'm sick of ice cream and sucking on Popsicles," he said as he collected his equipment here while Team Canada practised at a nearby mall yesterday.

"It was a piece of one of my tonsils," he explained.

Nash has been bothered by throat problems for several seasons.

"Three years ago I had my tonsils taken out, but the swelling was so bad the doctor couldn't get all of it. It's been a problem, on occasion, ever since."

While there's the question of how the talented collection of forwards is going to split the ice time in this tournament, Nash isn't going to mind reduced ice time in the beginning.

"There's still a little pain there and I have to be careful it doesn't start to bleed. It's an open sore internally," said the player who won't dress for Canada for tonight's final pre-tournament game against Russia, but plans to get up to speed in time to open the tournament in Halifax.

If this event was in Moscow, like it was last year, he wouldn't likely have joined the team.

"I have to be real careful what I eat. And Moscow would be tough if something did happen."

He took his time confirming that he'd be a go for this tournament.

"I didn't give them a 'for sure' until Friday.

"But Ken Hitchcock talked to me and asked me to try my best to come and I've had a lot of satisfaction and enjoyment playing in this tournament in the past."

Nash has company among those who flocked here this year to play in the first world championships ever held in Canada to celebrate the 100th birthday of the IIHF.

Edmonton-born Jay Bouwmeester has played 389 NHL games without getting a sniff of Stanley season.

Bouwmeester may be setting some sort of record for most times wearing the Canadian red Maple Leaf without playing a Stanley Cup playoff game.

It's his eighth time.

He played in three World Juniors, the 2005 World Cup, the 2006 Torino Olympics and is in his third appearance at the world championships.

"It's disappointing every year not to play in the playoffs.

"As much fun as these tournaments are, you'd rather be playing with your normal team in the playoffs.

"But it's great to have this opportunity. It's such a great experience. It's nice to have a chance to end your season with a positive."

Duncan Keith, the Winnipeg product, has played in 245 games with the Chicago Blackhawks. It's his first time playing for Canada.

For his part, he's just thrilled to have been invited for his first Team Canada experience.

And while captain Shane Doan played 32 playoff games with the Winnipeg Jets and Phoenix Coyotes between 1995-96 and 2001-02, he hasn't been back since. That's 314 games since he last played in the tournament for the big silver trophy.

Jackets goaltender Pascal Leclaire and rookies Jonathan Toews of the Blackhawks and Sam Gagner of the Oilers have also yet to play in the playoffs.

Nash, who won World Junior gold in 2002 and played in the 2006 Torino Olympics for Wayne Gretzky, is in his fourth consecutive Worlds.

He led Canada in scoring to win a silver medal in 2005 in Austria before scoring six more last year to earn tournament MVP honours.

"I think a lot of the players who are here are on teams that are ready to make a jump," said the player who became the youngest player to lead the NHL in goals when he shared Rocket Richard trophy honours with 41 goals in 2003-04.

He thinks the Blue Jackets, Blackhawks, Coyotes and Oilers, in the West alone, are teams with a lot of young players ready to reach for the top together on their club teams.

But this is now.

"I'm here to win gold like 25 other guys. The No. 1 thing would be to win the Stanley Cup. But when you have a chance to represent your country, it's pretty special.

"I'm ready to be a part of it," said the Brampton, Ont. product who says he won't be able to go out with the boys for any beers.

A round of ice cream and Popsicles for everybody.


Videos

Photos