“Go no matter what happens”
“Go no matter what happens”
Hutton will always relish his 2016 Worlds gold
To put that number in perspective, it’s less than Vancouver Canucks teammate Alexander Edler played in an average game last season (24:27). It didn’t matter. In a million years, no one would have guessed at training camp in 2015 that this ever-smiling, curly-haired kid from Brockville, Ontario would not only make the Canucks and put up fine numbers as a rookie (1-24-25), but also help his country triumph for the second straight year at the Worlds in Russia.
Hutton got advice from then-Canuck blueliner Dan Hamhuis, a two-time World Champion who also played a part-time role with Team Canada en route to gold at the 2014 Sochi Olympics.
“I got asked to go two days before most guys were leaving town,” Hutton recalled. “‘Hammer’ said: ‘You’ve got to go. It’s a good experience. Team Canada treats you with nothing but respect.’ He said, no matter what happens, if you’re playing or not, you’re going to have a great time and learn a lot. He was 100 per cent right.”
Hutton was a fifth-round pick in 2012, and his biggest previous championship was with the Nepean Raiders of the Central Canada Hockey League that year. No wonder he’s still effusive over the way Hockey Canada treats players they invite to participate in the IIHF’s annual spring showcase.
“Geez, they have everything set up, from your flights to if your parents are coming out, what gear you need,” Hutton said. “I talked on the phone with so many different guys before I even got to meet them face to face, just making sure that when I got there I had everything. When we were over there, they accommodated us with meals, everything – it was all first-class. Even the flights, I got to sleep in a little pod the whole way there.”
The smooth-skating 23-year-old made his biggest contribution in a 7-1 romp over newly promoted Hungary, logging 11:48 and chipping in an assist. He’ll always remember the ambience at St. Petersburg’s Yubileiny Arena with the passionate Hungarian fans, who stayed afterwards to serenade their team with their national anthem, “Himnuz”.
“It was almost like a soccer atmosphere, where the fans were all up chanting the whole time. I thought for the most part we were dominating the game, and their fans didn’t let up one bit. When they stole the puck, they got extra-loud. Anything they could cheer for, they got super-loud.”
Off the ice, he appreciated the chance to check out the spectacular architecture of St. Petersburg, nicknamed the “Venice of the North”. The team hotel was just a short stroll from both the Winter Palace and the Peter and Paul Fortress.
“I didn’t really talk to many people because it was all Russian, like asking for directions or anything like that. But me and my dad did a lot of sightseeing. We saw a bunch of palaces that were just lit up with gold and stuff like that. The architecture had lots of little details in it, whether it was a bridge that had spears on it or whatever. It was cool.”
Getting to know players from rival teams is another perk of international competition, and Hutton struck up some friendships during the tournament from 6th to 22nd May. One of them, a member of the Boston Bruins, was Public Enemy Number One in Vancouver when Boston defeated the Canucks in the 2011 Stanley Cup final. (The same fellow also got some positive notoriety for scoring Canada’s 2-1 winner versus Team Europe in Game Two of the World Cup of Hockey final in September.)
“Corey Perry is a great guy, as is Matt Dumba,” said Hutton. “And you know what? I was roommates with Brad Marchand. It was good. No, he didn’t chirp me in my sleep or anything like that. I’m sure he’ll have a few chirps for me on the ice. That’s the way he plays. But off the ice he was a great guy.”
Playing five out of the 10 games, there were some tough moments. Hutton dressed but didn’t see the ice once during a 5-0 win over Slovakia. However, he got to play with such top-shelf offensive talents as Matt Duchene, Taylor Hall, and Connor McDavid, who scored the winning goal versus Finland in the Moscow final. And he witnessed the all-around defensive poise of Canucks teammate Chris Tanev, who, along with partner Morgan Rielly, wasn’t on for a single even-strength goal against in the tournament.
That experience should give Hutton confidence in his sophomore season in Vancouver. In the pre-season, he scored an eye-popping goal on the rush versus Arizona that drew comparisons to Bobby Orr. This season he’s paired with Erik Gudbranson, a 2011 World Junior silver medalist and 2014 Worlds participant acquired from the Florida Panthers in late May.
“He’s certainly given us a different dimension,” said Canucks coach Willie Desjardins of Hutton. “I was worried about him coming in because the expectations were so high. But he’s played hard and it doesn’t seem to affect him. He’s started right where he left off last year.”
Hutton is a smart kid. He studied business management for three years at the University of Maine before making the leap to pro. He’s working remotely to complete his degree and scored 88 per cent on a recent exam. And here’s how he sums up what he’d tell another player who gets invited to represent Canada at the IIHF Ice Hockey World Championship.
“Definitely go. You’ll love the experience. The guys are great. Team Canada is, I think, the best in the world. Go no matter what happens.”
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