Kukla's Korner

Above the Glass

From the Dub: the son also rises

The son in this case being Portland Winterhawk goalie Brendan Burke, whose father is former NHL goalie Sean Burke.  Currently ranked 13th among North American goalies by Central Scouting, Brendan recently turned heads when he posted two shutouts in a row on Jan. 26 and 29. Those ultimately turned out to be two-thirds of three consecutive shutouts by the team, which set a new franchise record. So now might be a good time to tune into his frequency, because it’s about to get very loud.

It’s good to have backup. Especially if that goalie has enough confidence to fill an entire roster. Now in his second season with the Winterhawks, Brendan spent most of last year backing up superstar goalie Mac Carruth.  Between that and “the son of” legacy, it’s a lot for any young player to live up to. Not to mention moving from a state where it’s 80 degrees in the shade to one where it cracks 80 degrees for about a week. But talk to him in person, and you’d never know it. Brendan’s a very well spoken, confident and direct player who is progressing towards becoming the goalie the Winterhawks saw in him when they drafted him 49th overall in the 2010 Bantam Draft. In 23 games played, Brendan has demonstrated steady improvement with three shutouts on the season, a steady climb in monthly save totals, a 91% save percentage (.909 to be exact, 12th in the WHL) and a 2.55 GAA (7th in the WHL).

Hockey is everywhere. Brendan once told me that one of the more interesting side effects of growing up as a hockey player in Arizona is that “people don’t really believe I’m a hockey player.” I get the same thing as an Arizona native, but in my case they usually back up several feet and call the proper authorities on their mobile devices. Having experienced it firsthand myself, I have the utmost respect for any player who bravely withstands the slings and arrows of being from a non-traditional hockey city. His ability to do so with a sense of humor is the perfect example of how confident and resilient Brendan is as a person.

He learns fast. If you saw his early Winterhawks games this season, you might just dismiss Brendan was lacking in confidence and the competitive drive it takes to make it to the NHL. In person, you will find quite the opposite to be true. He’s a quietly confident player who is always striving to better. Case in point; when he has a bad game, he roars back quickly. Take for example, a game versus the Vancouver Giants on November 9 where he was pulled four and a half minutes into the third period, when two of Vancouver’s five goals slipped past him in just over three minutes. He watched the rest of the game from the bench while his teammates turned the game around with four goals in the third and a 9-5 win. About two weeks later, he was given a second chance. He took it: Brendan earned his first shutout of the season in a 3-0 win against the Everett Silvertips on November 21.

He’s cool like that. I talked to him recently, and Brendan is well aware that Chicago Blackhawks’ prospect Mac Carruth will be the starter for playoffs, and he’s good with that. Not a lot of goalies are, given that they are competing with only one other guy for the number one starting spot. So I give the props to Brendan for respecting his coaches’ decisions and making the most of his starting opportunities to prove himself worthy of being the number one netminder next season.

His future is bright. Brendan Burke is a very well-grounded, smart person who is wise beyond his soon-to-be 18 years. He rebounds well from loss, he learns fast and he’s not afraid to tell it like it is; all the ingredients a top prospect needs to succeed. It’s all the more impressive when you know that he is following in his father’s footsteps, and those of Mac Carruth. All of which is also why I’d suggest tuning into Brendan’s frequency now, because the son of former NHL goalie Sean Burke is also rising.

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About Above the Glass

Welcome to Above the Glass, a definitive anti-expert’s guide to hockey. I started blogging in 2009 as part of an effort to learn all 87 rules in the NHL Rulebook in 107 days before the 2010 Olympics, 30 years after I discovered the sport. You can peruse the archival results here. Growing up in Arizona, I didn’t even know hockey existed until February 22, 1980, when the USA played Russia in the Olympics. And just like that, the game of the century changed my life. I still don’t quite understand the icing rule or which faceoff circle goes with what offense, but I do know that every aspect of hockey has something to teach us about life. That’s what you’ll find here, along with my unadulterated passion for the game.

I live in Portland, Oregon, home of the WHL’s Portland Winterhawks. I invite anyone who wants to know more about hockey in the Rose City to visit here, where I blog exclusively about the Winterhawks. I’ll post an occasional musing about the Hawks, the WHL and junior hockey here as well.

Follow me on Twitter: @AbovetheGlass

Email: samantha@kuklaskorner.com