After pre-Olympic odyssey, Sean Burke staying closer to home ahead of worlds - InfoNews

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After pre-Olympic odyssey, Sean Burke staying closer to home ahead of worlds

Sean Burke speaks at a news conference in Calgary, Alta., Tuesday, July 25, 2017. The co-general manager of Canada's entry at next month's world hockey championships, Burke has a better handle on the players available for selection at this stage of the process than the group of ex-NHLers and journeymen he cobbled together for the Pyeongchang Olympics. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jeff McIntosh
April 04, 2018 - 6:00 AM

Sean Burke found himself in far-flung airports and arenas the last time he was tasked with picking a team.

His current job, at least on the surface, seems a lot more straightforward.

The co-general manager of Canada's entry at next month's world hockey championship, Burke has a better handle on the players available for selection at this stage of the process than the group of ex-NHLers and journeymen he cobbled together for the Pyeongchang Olympics.

With the NHL declining to participate at the Winter Games in South Korea, Burke scoured hockey outposts to fill his roster with Canadians plying their trade on teams likes Medvescak Zagreb, Barys Astana, Linkoping HC and Kunlun Red Star.

"We put in a lot of time and a lot of travel," the former goalie told The Canadian Press in a phone interview this week. "I went over to Europe numerous times, I went to Russia numerous times. You don't see the players as much on TV, you can't just catch a game on any given night.

"A much more time-consuming process where you had to get eyes on them."

With the worlds, which run May 4 to 20 in Denmark, Burke and fellow co-GM Martin Brodeur should have plenty of information on possible candidates littered across NHL rosters.

Burke said he has eight or nine members of the team confirmed, but there are different set of challenges when faced with players on non-playoff clubs.

Some might decline because of injuries, contract situations or personal reasons. A few like Montreal's Carey Price and Ottawa's Matt Duchene have already said they won't be heading to Copenhagen and Herning.

"Guys you think are available end up not being available ... your list is evolving," Burke said. "The Olympic team, for the most part, you knew every guy you were interested in was going to be available."

Burke helped guide Canada to a bronze medal in Pyeongchang, adding to an international resume that includes a silver from his time as an assistant GM at last year's worlds. Brodeur, an assistant GM with St. Louis, was also part of the management group that assembled the team for the 2018 Olympics.

"Marty's very easy to work with," Burke said of NHL's all-time leader in goalie wins. "He's got a great perspective on the game."

But their history goes back much further than duties in the front office for Hockey Canada.

Burke, who was with New Jersey when the club drafted Brodeur in 1990, sat out the 1991-92 season because of a contract dispute to play with, coincidentally, the Canadian national team before he was traded to Hartford.

That paved the way for Brodeur to eventually take over the crease — one he would come to dominate.

"I left New Jersey thinking they were really going to miss me, and I don't think they did," Burke said. "The few Burke jerseys that were out there were quickly replaced.

"We had a good laugh this year."

A professional scout with Montreal, Burke suited up for parts of 19 seasons in the NHL with eight teams, but only saw action in 38 playoff games.

The 51-year-old took part in the worlds five times — winning two gold medals and two silvers — and is Canada's all-time leader in games played (35), minutes played (1,991), and wins (21) at the tournament.

"It's an opportunity to end your year on a good note," said Burke, who also won silver as a player at the 1992 Olympics. "The competition, the tournament itself is very revered around the world.

"What a lot of the players from other countries think about that competition is almost what we thought of the Stanley Cup growing up."

Canada has a long list of talented possibilities for 2018, with Connor McDavid (Edmonton), Jamie Benn and Tyler Seguin (Dallas), Mike Smith and Sean Monahan (Calgary), Jonathan Toews and Patrick Sharp (Chicago), Bo Horvat (Vancouver), Mathew Barzal (New York Islanders) and Jeff Skinner (Carolina) among potential roster members already eliminated from playoff contention.

And then there are the ones still fighting for their post-season lives, like Jonathan Huberdeau and Aaron Ekblad (Florida), Ryan Getzlaf and Corey Perry (Anaheim), Drew Doughty (Los Angeles), Nathan MacKinnon (Colorado) and Alex Pietrangelo (St. Louis).

In those cases, it's simply a waiting game for a country that won gold in 2015 and 2016, and is looking to return to the top of the podium this spring.

"We'll have a very good team," Burke said. "A team capable of winning this thing."

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News from © The Canadian Press, 2018
The Canadian Press

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