You can’t mention Kyle Chipchura’s name without mentioning the uphill battle he’s faced to get to where he is today. After having his dream of playing for Team Canada taken away last year due to an injury just prior to the tournament, Chipchura has come to Vancouver more eager than ever to taste victory.
During practice last December with the Prince Albert Raiders, Chipchura had his Achilles tendon severed by a teammate’s skate. Many thought his season was over, and there was the possibility he’d never even play hockey again. However, Chipchura’s hard work and determination found him back in the Raiders’ lineup in time for the WHL playoffs, where he had 14 points in 11 games.
“Last year was a tough time that I went through,” admitted Chipchura, a native of Vimy, Alberta. “I didn’t know how I could come back, but I worked hard, and now that I’m back, I think it’s a bit sweeter because I didn’t know how I’d be coming back from the injury.”
Not only is Chipchura back, but once the selection process was completed, Head Coach Brent Sutter gave the 2004 Montreal Canadiens first-round draft pick the honour of trying to lead this team to its second gold medal finish in as many years, by giving him the “C.”
“That was a real proud moment,” said Chipchura. “I’ve always dreamed about playing for Team Canada, it’s a great honor to play for them, and then to be named captain is kind of icing on the cake.
“I think being captain back in Prince Albert, I’ve learned a lot. Wearing a letter, and trying to lead now, playing here, it’s kind of the same situation.”
Growing up, Chipchura says one of his idols was Steve Yzerman, which isn’t too surprising considering the leadership roles the 6-1, 209-pounder has assumed in his young hockey career.
“I like Steve Yzerman,” said Chipchura. “He works really hard, he’s a real leader, he’s a good team guy, and he’s a winner, and that’s what I’d like to be.”
Many have discussed the overwhelming pressures that Canada has had to face with this year’s tournament being held on home turf. However, Chipchura says the experience has been a fun one so far.
“I think there’s always going to be pressure when you’re playing for Team Canada,” said the 19-year-old. “When it’s on your own soil, yeah, maybe there’s a little more pressure, but it’s also a lot more fun, I think. You’ve got the huge crowd, big noise. Although the pressure’s there, I think there’s a little more incentive to have success.”
Away from the game, Chipchura, like any guy his age, enjoys a good movie or hitting the local bowling lanes.
“I like to fish,” Chipchura added. “I do a lot of fishing in the summer and, if I can, in the winter. But I’ve never fished in Vancouver, only in the Prairies!”
If he wasn’t a hockey player, Chipchura says he would probably find some other way to stay in the game he loves so much.
“I’d like to be a part of hockey, whether it’s a coach or a scout or something like that,” said the product of Westlock Minor Hockey. “That would be the best thing to be around hockey all the time, and if not, I think I’d probably be something along the lines of business.”
Hockey players are known for their superstitions. However, Chipchura says he doesn’t bother playing mind games with himself.
“I try not to get that stuff in my head. I think that’s just waiting for excuses if you forget one of them.”
As far as his fondest hockey moment goes, Chipchura didn’t have to dig far to find it, citing Monday night’s tournament opener as one of the most memorable moments of his career.
“Coming over here and playing against Team Finland [on Monday night], that was one of the most amazing nights. The atmosphere in the rink was crazy that day, and it’s something I’ve been waiting for my whole life.”
Chipchura knows the biggest games of the tournament are still ahead. And as per Coach Sutter’s mantra, the biggest game of the tournament now is New Year’s Eve against the Americans, and you can expect Canada to come out with a Game Seven-like mentality.
“I think we’ll play our own game, and I think we need to stick to our game plan and not totally worry about them,” Chipchura said. “We want to go out there, forecheck hard, play hard, be in their face, be assertive all over the ice. That’s how we want to approach every game. I don’t think we have to change it because we’re playing a good team.”