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Stu Cowan: New Canadiens assistant coach Alex Burrows a 'hockey nerd' – Montreal Gazette



Pincourt native came very close to giving up on his dream of playing in the NHL during his third season of making $350 a week in the ECHL.

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Alex Burrows believes that every day in the NHL “is always a great day.”

That’s not surprising when you look at the road the new Canadiens assistant coach had to take to make it as a player in the NHL.

The 39-year-old Pincourt native played two seasons with the QMJHL’s Shawinigan Cataractes, but was never selected at the NHL Draft. After junior, he spent three years in the ECHL, playing for the Greenville Grrrowl, the Baton Rouge Kingfish and the Columbia Inferno, earning $350 a week.

“I remember my third year pro when I got sent down for the third year in a row to the East Coast league,” Burrows recalled Tuesday afternoon during a video conference from Vancouver. “That’s when all my buddies were finishing university and I told myself that if I was still in the Coast by Christmas I would have probably packed it in and go to university and try to get a degree.”

Burrows got the break he was hoping for after playing only four games with the Inferno in the 2004-05 season when he got a call from Craig Heisinger, who was general manager of the AHL’s Manitoba Moose, the Vancouver Canucks’ farm team at the time.


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“I never looked back ever since,” Burrows said.

Burrows made his NHL debut during the 2005-06 season and would play 12 seasons with the Canucks, followed by two more with the Ottawa Senators before hanging up his skates and taking an assistant coaching job with the AHL’s Laval Rocket in 2018, joining his friend Joël Bouchard behind the bench.

Burrows said he was shocked and excited when he got a call from Canadiens GM Marc Bergevin on the night of Feb. 23, shortly after the team’s 5-4 shootout loss to the Senators in Ottawa. Bergevin informed Burrows he was firing head coach Claude Julien and associate coach Kirk Muller. Dominique Ducharme would replace Julien and Burrows would replace Muller.

The Canadiens arranged for a car to pick Burrows up at his Montreal home at 6 a.m. the next day to bring him to Ottawa so he could join the team for a flight to Winnipeg for a game the next night against the Jets. Burrows said his wife had to inform their three kids when they woke up that morning why their father wasn’t home and what his new job was. Burrows said his family was thrilled, noting his 5-year-old son watches the RDS sports news every morning and knows all the Canadiens players.


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“I was really excited, really thrilled to get a chance to get back in the NHL with my childhood team and to chase that Lord Stanley again,” Burrows said. “Even if it’s as a coach, for me it would be a dream come true. I’m really excited about this challenge. It’s going to take time, but at the same time, it’s going to be a lot of fun and I’m really looking forward to the rest of the season and see how our team plays. The best thing for me, our guys care so much and they want to do well and we have a good group of guys. So I’m excited about that.”

The Canadiens players have talked about the excitement and energy Burrows has brought to the team. He has also helped improve the power play, which is 5-for-11 in the first six games since Burrows took charge of it, with the Canadiens posting a 2-1-3 record with their new coaches.


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Burrows started his NHL career as a fourth-line agitator “doing whatever it took to stay in the league.” He eventually moved up to a checking role on the third line and ended up playing on the Canucks’ top line with twins Henrik and Daniel Sedin. In 2019, Burrows was inducted into the Canucks’ Ring of Honour.

Burrows answered questions for more than 45 minutes Tuesday in English and French and was very comfortable and confident. He said he’s just going to be himself in his new role with the Canadiens. You could see and hear why he has been able to bring some energy to the team.

“Now that I’m here I won’t start changing the way I am,” he said. “I’m going to be myself. That’s what brought me here, that’s what gave me the career I had, so why change now?”


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Burrows describes himself as a “hockey nerd” who eats hockey and watches games every night.

When asked if he wonders what he might have done if he didn’t make it in the NHL, Burrows said: “I think the biggest thing would probably have been a phys-ed teacher. That’s probably what I would have liked to do. Because I’m a big sports fan. I watch every sport that’s out there I know about. I like to watch and I like to study how guys prepare. So I would say phys-ed teacher would have probably been my call of duty.”

Now, the NHL has come calling again. Another great day for Burrows.

  1. Canadiens Notebook: Alex Burrows getting results with Habs’ power play

  2. Winnipeg Jets centre Andrew Copp (9) leans into Montreal Canadiens defenseman Joel Edmundson (44) as Montreal Canadiens goaltender Carey Price (31) follows the play during NHL action in Montreal on Saturday, March 6, 2021.

    Cowan: Canadiens’ Joel Edmundson leading the NHL in plus/minus


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Berrettini ends Murray’s comeback at Queen’s



Andy Murray‘s grasscourt return was cut short in brutal fashion at Queen’s Club as Italian top seed Matteo Berrettini dished out a 6-3 6-3 defeat to the former world number one on Thursday.

The 34-year-old two-time Wimbledon champion, playing in his first singles tournament on grass for three years, could not handle the ferocious pace of Berrettini as he slid to defeat.

Murray eased past Benoit Paire in his opening match on Tuesday but world number nine Berrettini was too big a step up.

Berrettini’s huge first serve and forehand did most of the damage but the Italian also showed plenty of silky touch on the slick lawns to register his first career win over Murray.

Berrettini, 25, finished the match off with a powerful hold of serve, banging down four massive first serves before sealing victory with a clubbing forehand winner.

He faces British number one Dan Evans in the quarter-final after Evans beat Frenchman Adrian Mannarino.

Murray, a five-time winner of the traditional warm-up event but now ranked 124 after long battles with hip injuries including resurfacing surgery in 2019, has been handed a wildcard for the Wimbledon championships.

Apart from a slight groin niggle, Murray said he was reasonably happy with his condition, considering this was only his third Tour-level tournament of the year.

“I think obviously I need to improve,” Murray told reporters. “I actually felt my movement was actually quite good for both of the matches. My tennis today was not very good today. That’s the thing that I’ll need to improve the most.

“I felt like today that that sort of showed my lack of matches.”

Spanish veteran Feliciano Lopez, who won the singles title in 2019 and the doubles alongside Murray, was beaten 6-2 6-3 by Canada‘s Denis Shapovalov.

(Reporting by Martyn HermanEditing by Toby Davis and Pritha Sarkar)

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Be Like the King of the North Division and Develop Skills



North Division

It’s been a year unlike no other for Canadian hockey teams, with COVID-19 travel restrictions forcing the creation of a new NHL division made up entirely of Canadian teams. The previous generation of NHL hockey was known as the “Dead Puck Era” because referees tolerated slowing down the game with clutching and grabbing.

The leading scorers today score in jaw-dropping fashion and routinely pull off stickhandling dangles that were unimaginable until only recently. The Canadian team that will win the North Division will be the one with the most skill.

Here are the training aids that will help you develop your skills all year long.


Innovators like HockeyShot Canada make “passers” so that players can develop pinpoint accuracy and the soft hands necessary to cradle and control a pass when it lands on your stick. The high-quality rubber bands return the puck with the same force which passed it, so you can give yourself one-timers or work on accuracy.

Whether you’re on a two-on-one, sending a breakout pass from the defensive zone, or holding down the blue line on the power play, every positional player needs to pass accurately.


A player is lucky to get a few shots on net each game, and they can’t let them go to waste. Until recently, players needed to rent ice in the off-season to practice their shots in realistic game-like conditions.

Now, players can use shooting pads at their home that let pucks glide as they do on real ice. Shooting is perhaps the one skill that requires the most repetition because one inch can be the difference between going bar-down and clanking one wide off the post.

Practice your quick release and accuracy and develop an arsenal of shots, including wrist shots, slapshots, one-timers, and more. The more tools in your tool kit, the deadlier a sniper you’ll be.

Stick Handling

Having the puck on your stick is a responsibility, and you don’t want to cough it up to the other team and waste a scoring chance or lose possession. The ability to stickhandle helps you bide time until a teammate is open, so you can pass them the puck and continue attacking.

If you’re on a breakaway, you may want to deke the goalie rather than shoot if your hands are silky enough. Develop stickhandling skills, and you’ll keep goalies and opponents guessing – being unpredictable helps make a sniper’s job easier.

Of course, you also need to handle the puck in your own zone without causing a turnover. Stickhandling is a crucial skill in all areas of the ice.

When the coach sends you over the board, you need to be prepared for whatever comes your way. Maybe you’ll get the puck in the slot or somewhere else, but when it’s playoffs, you always need to be ready. The Kings of the North Division have all of the above skills and more, and you can too if you practice all year.

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Australia swim trials calendar shift to reap Tokyo rewards



Australia broke with tradition to hold its swimming trials just six weeks before the start of the 2020 Olympics and former world champion Giaan Rooney said the move could reap rich rewards in Tokyo after disappointments at London and Rio.

Australia has typically held its trials up to six months before an Olympics but that gap has been drastically cut this year with swimmers vying for Tokyo spots this week in Adelaide.

Rooney, who won individual world titles at Fukuoka and Montreal and a relay gold at the 2004 Athens Olympics, said Australia is gearing up for a much improved Games after its swimmers flopped at Rio and London.

“I think we needed to make it work,” she told Reuters. “The shift started about a year ago to bring the trials into line with the rest of the world and qualify five or six weeks before.

“In sport and swimming, six months is a long time,” Rooney added. “From a coaching perspective, it’s much better to know you have chosen the team in form.”

After winning five gold medals at Sydney 2000 and seven in Athens, the Australian team was rocked by accusations of disruptive behaviour by some of its top sprinters at the 2012 Olympics.

Australia won just one gold medal in the London pool and three in Rio five years ago.

Australia knew something had to be done if it was to close the gap on the powerful Americans and moving the trials is part of the strategy.

“I think it’s to make your swimmers more resilient to change,” Rooney said.

“In the USA they get to race every week regardless of illness or breakups and under all circumstances. Nothing rattles them.

“Australia doesn’t have that racing continuity. This is about making sure you are prepared for anything. I think our swimmers are more resilient than they have been in the past decade, COVID is part of this.”

Rooney said there might even be an “upside” for Australia with the Olympics postponed by a year due to the global health crisis, with the emergence of swimmers like teenager Kaylee McKeown, who broke the women’s 100m backstroke world record on Sunday.

“We are now talking about athletes who are not only going to make the Olympics but are medal chances,” Rooney said.

“We wouldn’t have been talking about her this time last year. She might not have been ready for a position on the team. She is now a legitimate gold medal chance in Tokyo once she gets there.”

For all her confidence about Australia’s performance in Tokyo, Rooney was wary of making predictions about a gold rush for her compatriots.

“I think this will be a more successful Olympics for us than Rio in the pool but individual goal medals will still be difficult to come by,” said the 38-year-old.

“The biggest challenge is to make the jump from minor medals to gold.”


(Editing by Peter Rutherford)

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