Big Country will represent his country, it’s only fitting.
The Canucks announced Sunday Jake Virtanen would be loaned to Team Canada for the upcoming 2016 IIHF World Junior Championship in Finland. He’s one of four returning players from last year’s gold medal winning team and will be looked upon as one of the team’s leaders.
Virtanen, who left for Imatra, Finland, late Monday, is missed by the Canucks. His youthful exuberance and cheerful nature adds a certain je ne sais quoi to the dressing room, which the team will be without until January 8th at the latest, assuming Team Canada does some damage.
Thanks to glorious advances in technology, including cameras on phones and the photoshop, now Virtanen, aka Big Country, can follow the team wherever they go.
This past October Virtanen was preparing for Halloween and his first team Halloween get together with the Canucks. Costumes, candy and kids. As a rookie, he knew he’d be ribbed for whatever costume he chose, so he decided to play along and dress up like a hotdog.
Then he regained his senses and went a different direction.
I was standing in the hallway following a Canucks practice at UBC when Henrik Sedin approached. He pulled me aside and asked if I could track down the Vancouver Grizzlies jersey he wore during the basketball segment of this past summer’s Sedin vs. Sedin challenge.
The turquoise Bryant Reeves no. 50 jersey in question belongs to CanucksTV segment producer Shawn Edstrom, who was happy to lend it to Virtanen.
But what would Virtanen need a Grizzlies jersey for? Ah, right.
Virtanen is lovingly known as Big Country in the dressing room, a nickname given to him by Matt Bartkowski, because, frankly, it fits. “I wish I had a sweet nickname like that,” said Bartkowski, serious as a tree.
The moniker has stuck and Virtanen approves, he went as far as buying $200 cowboy boots to complete his Big Country costume that included an American flag cowboy hat, tight jeans and a large belt buckle. He owned it.
Now Big Country is off to Finland, but as you can see below, he’ll be with us every step of the way during our six-game road trip.
Not only that, now you can take lil Big Country anywhere you please! He’s a great travel companion, one enthusiastically giving two thumbs up to everything. Recently he picked out a Christmas tree at night, visited a desert and went for a mountainous hike. World traveler!
Best of luck to Big Country and the rest of Team Canada!
Yes, this photo is real. Yes, Virtanen said I could write this and use the photo. Yes, I checked with some veterans on the team to make sure it was okay. And yes, I checked with Canucks media relations just to be super sure. My concern: it was too awesome for the internet.
I love getting to know these guys and letting you in on what characters they are. Plus, now we all have a Halloween costume for next year: dress up as Jake Virtanen, dressed as Big Country!