Monday, October 11, 2010

The ‘Real’ Calgarian Candidate on Skates: Thursday Evening with Craig Burrows

Nation, again we have another great piece by Christina Rontynen, contributing to  This marks the third in a series of pieces that resulted from a post she wrote, asking Calgary's mayoral candidates to show her the "real them".  The ones who have gotten back to her, are getting stories written about the experience. The ones who haven't, aren't.  Any questions?  ;)

Christina's text begins...  now.


I first met Craig Burrows through a mutual friend. It was shortly after my original blog about discovering the real people behind the mayoral candidates that I “bumped” in to him at the Barley Mill in Eau Claire Market. He was immediately interested in the idea of showing people the real him. “I’m an avid golfer. When I’m trying to relax before getting to sleep I dream about being on the green,” he explained while beaming. I told him to take me out for a round – after all I’m a firm believer that everyone’s true colours come out on the course.

Time passed ... and our terrible month of weather continued. Craig contacted me, personally, still eager to show Calgary the man behind the mayoral candidate. He was playing hockey at the Westside Rec Centre on Thursday evening with his team the Stumplejumpers. Yes, I did ask right away what that team name meant, and the response – “Don’t ask!”

Craig has been playing with this group of guys since the Westside Rec Centre opened. Many of his teammates are made up of the volunteers and board members that were responsible for the construction of the Centre. “I literally had to try out [for this team].” Burrows admits it was a tough crowd. But he clearly had what it took to impress them – at least it looked that way on the Thursday evening I went to watch him play.

The team very much looks like a team on the ice and on the bench. They seem to be in sync with one another, and happy to be playing together. The Stumplejumpers are in white jerseys – Craig happens to be wearing his Team Burrows jersey (I’m sure you’ve seen these if you’ve been to at least one of the many mayoral forums). No audience, no cheerleaders. It really is just men and their hockey sticks. A Thursday night away from home being guys, having fun, and letting off a week’s worth of steam. The Thursday night at 9pm ice time is ideal - late enough to spend time unwinding with the family after work and early enough to enjoy some “chicken wings and beer” after the game. “We’ve had the ice time since the Centre opened up. We were able to get it as being one of the first groups to organize. Actually, we were offered $10K for the ice time but this is so important for us that we would never sell it. Thursday at 9pm is perfect.”

This particular game was quite special for the Stumplejumpers – not just because I was there but because the CBC was covering their story as well. This hockey team stacked with real Calgarian boys were receiving their 15 minutes of fame.

The game begins.

Craig starts the game on the bench; he is chatting with the CBC reporter. The black jersey wearing team they are playing against is quite aggressive and the Stumplejumpers are a little lacking on their defence – and losing. Craig comes out in the second period after his CBC interview is completed. I couldn’t help but wonder if this reporter knew hockey ... clearly not. If she were a real sports fan she would have gotten Burrows on the ice as soon as possible. You can tell a lot about a man by the way he plays hockey – I happen to know because I was one of those girls in high school that somehow always ended up dating the hockey playing type. By the way Burrows fires himself on to the ice it is clear he was itching to get out there. He successfully breaks up a play by the black team and assists a goal during his first shift. During his second shift it was clear Craig wants the puck. He is one of those guys banging his stick on the ice and constantly moving around. I was impressed that he was always looking for the pass and was quite skilled at staying open.

The game continues. You can imagine it to be similar to any amateur hockey game you’ve attended. These guys are serious but they are having fun. Craig is always congratulating team members, the first to laugh when someone (including himself) takes a tumble, and drops the occasional “f-bomb”. The last always made me laugh ... wonder how many times he has wanted to let one of those slide during the mayoral forums. Burrows is overall very vocal on the ice – I would confidently call him the most vocal on his team.

He is a good hockey player; he appeared to be tiring half way through his time on the ice, but quickly caught a second wind early in the third period. He is able to play fairly long shifts, clearly an asset to the team. Burrows tells me he started playing hockey as a kid, and played Triple A his whole life. His favourite memory is when he played in front of 16000 people at the Quebec Pee Wee Tournament at 12 years old. He played hockey in university for McGill’s team but quit after school. “I quit right after until I started up again with these guys. I missed it. I love this game.”

The CBC cameraman was making his way around the entire rink during the game. He was taking shots of Burrows on the ice doing his thing. The Stumplejumpers were very conscious of this – and it was hard not to notice the fact that they were trying to give their teammate, Burrows, every opportunity they could. It was endearing. I can’t imagine this is a regular occurrence. The conversation in the locker room, whether Craig was aware or not, was about making their buddy look good. This speaks volumes to me about the attention and respect Craig commands from his hockey playing peers. Craig took every opportunity his boys gave him – including assisting on several goals, and a pretty sweet breakaway ending with a shot on net that bounced off the post.

The last thing I ask Craig is about his favourite NHL hockey player. His team is the Flames (as a sports fan running for Calgary’s mayor I’d say he better be...), and favourite player is Jarome Iginla. “He is a modern day Gordie Howe. If you don't understand, then you don't know hockey!” he continues by talking about the Flames. “My fav team is hands down the Flames - no broken ankles from jumping on and off the bandwagon for me.” He says this with a big smirk on his face.

The real Craig Burrows? I’m impressed by him. And surprised by the lack of attention he has gotten in this race. He is clearly a ‘real’ Calgarian boy. Passionate about the city the way he is passionate about hockey. He is respected by his team mates – an indicator of his character. He is true to his commitments – obviously a valuable member of this team, and obviously in campaign hyper drive he makes sure he is at the game giving his all. He is the teams on ice captain – seeing opportunities and playing strategically. His mind is sharp – he is a politician, a planner, and eager. If his real life on ice tactics translate in to his abilities in the mayoral arena I can see why this team agrees he would be the right choice to lead this city.

(this has been cross-posted to

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