Canadian defenceman Cam Barker’s 2005 IIHF World Junior Championship participation was cut short after three games because he was diagnosed with mononucleosis. But now he’s back in a key leadership role as the only returning player from that gold medal-winning team.
The Winnipeg native has experienced a rollercoaster ride of triumphs and disappointments leading up to this year’s tournament in British Columbia.
Barker did manage to join his team during their championship celebration despite his illness in 2005. He also missed three weeks with the Medicine Hat Tigers following the tournament. During that WHL season, Barker recorded 15 goals and 33 assists in 52 games.
Barker then led his team into the WHL playoffs as the defending champions from 2004.
Unfortunately, the Tigers lost in the second round to the Prince Albert Raiders after winning a tense seven-game series against the Red Deer Rebels. Barker had three goals and three assists in the post-season.
Last September, Barker came into NHL training camp with the Chicago Blackhawks at the age of 19 and made the team for the start of the 2005-06 season. But he only played in one game before heading back to Medicine Hat. Still, it was a promising start for Barker, who was selected by Chicago in the first round, third overall (after Alexander Ovechkin and Evgeni Malkin) in the 2004 NHL Entry Draft.
The 6-3, 200-pound Barker is a strong, physical defenceman, who possesses great skating ability and is a threat on offence. He’s not afraid to join a rush or begin one himself. Barker is a great passer and power play specialist, with 12 of his 17 points this season, including his five goals, coming with the man advantage. He is a leader and plays well in high-pressure situations.
So far this year, Barker has played in 23 games for Medicine Hat. And Medicine Hat Kris Russell has joined him on the Canadian blueline here in Vancouver, providing a level of familiarity and comfort for the two.
Many of Barker’s other Team Canada teammates are connected to him in various ways. Daniel Bertram, Michael Blunden and David Bolland are all Chicago prospects. Also, Dustin Boyd and Jonathan Toews are fellow Winnipegers.
Barker’s favourite NHL stars are Ray Bourque and Chris Pronger, both known for being great all-around players. He also reveres the legendary Bobby Orr.
Barker first acquired some international experience while representing Canada at the 2003 U-18 World Cup. He played very little as the team’s seventh defenceman, but he gained vital skills that should benefit him throughout his career.
Right now, this savvy blueliner just wants to finish what he started.
HockeyCanada.ca’s Daniel Wilson caught up with Barker, Monday, December 26, following Team Canada’s 5-1 victory over Finland.
HockeyCanada.ca: What does your previous tournament experience mean to this team?
Cam Barker: Not too much. They’re all great players. They’re all here for a reason and they all know what they’re doing.
HockeyCanada.ca: How disappointing was it for you to have to leave the 2005 tournament early?
Barker: It was probably one of the worst times of my life. It’s something I definitely don’t want to go through again. I definitely learned a lot. These opportunities don’t come around too often, so you have to take advantage of them when they do.
HockeyCanada.ca: How has the team bonded over the last couple of weeks?
Barker: I think most of the guys have known each other previously. We all get along great. I think just getting together, being around each other for two weeks, there’s been a lot of chemistry for sure.
HockeyCanada.ca: What’s it like playing with a number of guys who might be future Chicago teammates of yours?
Barker: It’s great. We’ve known each other from a couple of summers ago. I spent a lot of time there in Chicago this summer and the summer before. I think those friendships are definitely lasting ones, and it definitely helps in a tournament like this.
HockeyCanada.ca: What are your hopes this time around for the tournament?
Barker: Our goal is always to do well and win gold. I think if we all play up to our capabilities, we’ll be able to do what we want to do.
HockeyCanada.ca: Is there anything, you personally, have left to accomplish in this tournament?
Barker: I think there is for sure. You always want to play well. There’s always goals you set as a player for each tournament coming in, and team goals as well. Usually when a team does well, those individual accolades come with that.
HockeyCanada.ca: Do you feel any pressure as the only returning player for the team?
Barker: Yeah, I think there’s always pressure around. All the other guys feel it too, but I think we’ve handled it very well so far. You can’t really let it get to you. You just have to play your game.