GLENDALE – I remember the first time I saw Brendan Burke tending goal. It was Friday, Oct. 22, 2010, and the Coyotes were practicing at Jobing.com Arena on a day in between home games.
As I watched the players take the ice for practice, I noticed that starting goalie Ilya Bryzgalov was missing and another goalie, whom I didn’t recognize, skated to the north-end net and positioned himself to stop some shots.
As it turned out, that goalie was 15-year-old Brendan Burke, son of Coyotes Goaltenders Coach Sean Burke. Long story short, Bryzgalov was given the day off by the coaches and Brendan Burke was asked to fill in at practice for a little while, which he did.
I remember thinking how cool that experience must have been for Brendan and how I needed to file this moment away just in case Brendan went on to bigger and better things.
Less than three years later, Burke is a member of the Coyotes for real. The team selected him last month in the sixth round of the 2013 NHL Entry Draft and earlier this month he and 35 other young players in the system took the ice at the Ice Den in Scottsdale for the 2013 Prospect Development Camp.
It was a sweet homecoming for Brendan, who spent a big chunk of his childhood in the Valley while his dad blocked shots for the Coyotes.
“This is the only rink I ever played at,” Brendan said after being asked to describe how it felt to be back in the building where he developed into a talented goaltending prospect said. “It’s really cool being back here for an NHL camp. There are a lot of familiar faces around. It’s really fun.”
Inspired by watching his dad, Brendan began playing hockey at age eight, although he wasn’t a goalie at first.
“I wanted to play goalie but my dad made me go play player for a little bit,” he recalled. “Then when I was 11 he asked me ‘Do you still want to play goalie?’ and I said ‘Yeah.’ So he bought me my first pair of pads and the rest is history.”
Brendan said he was attracted to being a goalie for many reasons.
“I saw him play and I always wanted to play his position, and it’s just a cool position with all the gear. And there’s a lot of pressure on you. You can win or lose a game. I really like that aspect.”
Burke posted a 24-5-1 record for the Western Hockey League’s Portland Winterhawks last season, and he’s eager to return to that team next season. His experience at the recent prospect camp was a good one, as he and the three other goalie prospects got in some quality work with his father.
“Sometimes he’s dad and sometimes he’s coach and sometimes he’s just Sean,” Brendan said of their relationship. “You’ve got to switch modes every once in a while. When we’re at home, he’s my dad and we hang out. When we’re at the rink, it’s serious and it’s business. He’s still my coach, and I’ve got to give him a lot of respect.”
He added, “Everything I know I’ve learned from him and I’m not done learning. I’m 18 years old and he’s been my goalie coach my whole life, and I pick up new things every day from him because he’s got so much experience.”
Sean Burke said he enjoys teaching his son the tools of the trade but he also said his son will not receive any special treatment from him when they’re on the ice with the other prospects.
“Yes, he’s my son but my job is the same for all of our prospects - to work with them and try to help them become as good as they can get.”
Regarding Brendan’s skills, Sean says:
“He’s a very coachable kid. He’s been around the rink so he understands the hard work that goes into it and the commitment needed, and he’s never been afraid to work hard. His biggest asset is that he’s got a real good head on his shoulders to complement his natural ability. He knows what he wants to do and he’s going to work hard at it.”
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