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Michael Petrie, Calgary Herald
Published: Saturday, December 23, 2006


The game wasn't 20 seconds old when Steve Downie nearly launched himself through the boards, whiffing on his attempt to crush a Swedish player.

Another 20 seconds passed when he almost landed in the Team Canada bench, trying again to eviscerate a Swede.

Over the next 59 minutes, his work included:

- An interference penalty that probably was a ticky-tack call.

- A 10-minute misconduct for abusing the official who made the call.

- Involvement on at least four good scoring chances and several hard-nosed plays around the net.

- Two dirty after-the-whistle trips that went undetected.

- A shoving match with six-foot-three defenceman Jonas Junlund that would have ended with punches in another time and place.

"I play my game the only way I know," said Canada's bad boy of junior hockey, following Friday's eventful 3-2 exhibition loss to Sweden. "It's as simple as that. I won't change no matter what league I'm in. I won't be any good if I do, so I'm not changing anything."

Downie's rap sheet is well-documented in Canada and beyond.

In September of 2005, he earned a five-game suspension for an altercation in practice with Windsor Spitfires teammate Akim Aliu. In the aftermath, Downie forced a trade to the Peterborough Petes.

Two months later, Team Canada took a leap of faith in the potential timebomb and assigned him a key role on the world-junior team. He responded with six points in six games and an all-star nod as Canada won gold in Vancouver.

Prior to his first game back with the Petes, Downie was honoured by the club for his international work. On that same night, he earned another five-game suspension for jumping and pummelling Andrew Gibbons of the Belleville Bulls.

He's the definition of a risk-reward player. Friday night in Stockholm served as a prime example of Downie the asset and Downie the assistant captain who finds trouble.

"He's always going to play on that edge and there's going to be times in a game when you have to talk to him," said head coach Craig Hartsburg. "You can't just do it at the start of the tournament and let it go. You're going to have to watch and see how things go on a daily basis.

"He's no angel and we all know that. His teammates know that. When we picked our team, we knew he's a guy that brings people together. He's got a great personality, he's outgoing, he talks to everybody, he's got energy.

"There's people that always want to cut people down and find weaknesses. We want to work with Steve's strengths and use his strengths."

At times, Downie can be a dynamic offensive force. He's strong on the puck, dangerous around the net and never stops working. Some have said that if he was six-foot-two instead of five-foot-10, he'd be an elite National Hockey League prospect.

His work as an agitator is almost legendary and he's developing a nice chemistry with linemates Andrew Cogliano and Brad Marchand.

Now, if only he can stay on the right side of the law.

"I've done things I regret," he said. "Who hasn't? You grow, you learn. You just have to learn from everything you do."

FULL STORY
 
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