Most people never get the opportunity to represent Canada in any field of work, but for the University of Alberta goaltender Brendan Burke, that’s exactly what happened Thursday evening when he was named to Hockey Canada’s roster for the 2019 Spengler Cup.
Burke is in his fourth season with the Golden Bears, where he went after finishing off his junior career in the CHL. through his time in junior, he never got the chance to play for Canada, despite playing in both the OHL and WHL. although four years after leaving CHL ice, his chance to wear the maple leaf has finally come.
He will be joined by former World Junior standout turned ECHL netminder Zach Fucale, as well as Edmonton’s very own Matt Tomkins who has been playing for the Rockford Icehogs of the American League.
It’s only in recent years that hockey Canada has started to look to the university and college game to find Spengler Cup players, with last year featuring now Nashville Predator Dante Fabbro. What used to be a tournament for washed-up NHLers has now become a mix of young guns, unheralded talents and the aforementioned former NHL players.
Burke is one of two collegiate players named to the roster. Join him is Ian Mitchell of the University of Denver, who has many teammates currently bidding for spots on the American U20 team which will compete concurrently.
Making the moment even more special for Burkle is the fact that his father, former NHL goalie Sean Burke is the General Manager of the Canadian squad. It’s unlikely that he played any role in putting the U of A netminder on the roster, but the opportunity will serve as a chance for the father and son duo to bond over the game and position they both love.
Through 10 games in Alberta’s crease this season, Burke has posted a save percentage of .905. Although that number is nothing to write home about, his team is still at the top of the Canada West division standings and is primed to make the national championship for the fourth year in a row.
An absent Burke won’t affect the Golden Bears directly, as they do not play any games until the new year, after his return. However, the confidence and experience he will gain when representing his country will undeniably aid him in his pursuit of better play when he returns to the province’s capital.
Ian Mitchell, who is leaving his Denver side will miss a game of NCAA action as he dawns the Canadian flag for the third time in his young career. A draft pick of the Chicago Blackhawks, he has represented Canada at the World U18 Championships and was a part of the disappointing Canadian effort at the World Juniors last Christmas.
Mitchell will likely play a much larger role than Burke in Canada’s golden pursuit, as the defensman is expected to play top 6 minutes, whereas the Albertan goaltender could very well ride the pine the entire tournament.
The Canadian kick of their Spengler Cup schedule against HC Ocelari Trinec on December 26th at 2:15pmET, before the tournament wraps up with its gold medal game on the final day of the decade, December 31st.
What is the Spengler Cup?
The Spengler Cup is an annual invitational ice hockey tournament held in Davos, Switzerland. First held in 1923, the Spengler Cup is often cited as the oldest invitational ice hockey tournament in the world. (TSN)