KLOTEN, Switzerland – As far as Doug Armstrong is concerned, every team needs a Colby Armstrong in its dressing room.
Canada’s general manager at the 2009 IIHF World Championship says this not because he shares the same family name (and they are not related) with the gritty Canadian forward. According to Armstrong, teams need character players in the room, the unsung hero who does what it takes to win and then some, and Colby Armstrong is that type of player.
“The guys like having him around and he is a competitor and he brings that honesty and that work ethic,” Armstrong said during a break at the world championship.
“He is a character. He is loose and he keeps everybody loose around him. He looks like a great teammate and you can’t have enough of those guys around in a tournament like this because these guys get together so quickly and they are together for a long time.
“It is not like the NHL where you go home. Here you go back to the same hotel with the same guys and you have to make sure you are a team. Guys like Colby are great for that process.”
Given the GM’s observations, it seems fitting that Armstrong won the Dan Snyder Memorial Trophy as the Atlanta Thrashers’ unsung hero this season. The award honours Snyder, the popular Thrashers player killed in a 2003 car crash.
The fact that Armstrong is back representing Canada at the IIHF World Championship for a second time says a lot about him as a person.
Armstrong didn’t make Canada’s National Junior Team in 2000 but that didn’t dampen his enthusiasm for wanting to one day represent his country.
“It seems like so long ago but some of my better accomplishments have been in a Canadian jersey,” said Armstrong.
Armstrong was referring to scoring the game-winning goal in the gold medal game at the 2007 world championship in Moscow. It was the only goal Armstrong scored in the tournament.
“That was like the highlight of my life and it is the biggest goal I have ever scored. I have not had anything like that, ever,” says Armstrong. “I did not score a couple of years ago and that was the only goal I scored and to have that stand up as he game-winner, it is huge.
“It was exciting and I will never forget that. We had such a great group of guys there.”
Armstrong was disappointed when the Thrashers failed to make the NHL playoffs and he was caught off guard when the invitation came to represent his country in Switzerland.
“I can’t believe that they invited me to play here. It is a tough team to make because there are so many great players in Canada. To have them consider me and then come over here and play is a great honour. It is awesome and I am happy to be here.”
Armstrong was asked what it feels like when he slips the Canadian jersey over his shoulders.
“It is definitely different than playing in the NHL. You get that feeling on the inside. I get pretty nervous before games and to be on a team where there are so many great players, you do not get that chance every day. Wearing the Canadian flag on your chest gets you nervous and pretty pumped up to play.”
Armstrong plays an honest game and he’s not easy to play against. He hits hard and goes hard as soon as his skates hit the ice.
“We look for Colby to be tough to play against,” said head coach Lindy Ruff. “We have that element on a couple of lines and that is what we want. We want those guys to play hard. Players do not like playing against players like that. You ask skill players and they like playing against skilled guys.”
Armstrong is enjoying his time with the Canadian team, and he’s always ready to answer the call to play for his country.
“It would be nice to play in the playoffs but this is a lot of fun. This is unbelievable and anytime they want me, I am available.”