Monday, September 24, 2007

Three-time All-Star Sean Burke retires

It's hard to believe how time has flown by where now I see that another veteran goaltender has called it a career.

After a lack of interest from the 30 NHL teams including the team he played for last season, Sean Burke announced his retirement on Tuesday after 18 seasons in the league. He finished up with the Los Angeles Kings in the 2006-2007 campaign where signed as an emergency roster addition thanks to injuries to their top two goaltenders. In 23 games, he complied a 6-15 record on a team that one of the worst records in the NHL last season.

I remember when Burke first broke into the league with the New Jersey Devils and had a major impact on their success. He had a 10-1 record in 13 games during the 1987-1988 season. The 24th overall draft pick in 1985 was between the pipes on the night the Devils clinched their first-ever playoff berth. Another vivid memory I have of Burke was him being the one reason why in my final road trip for an NHL game in Hartford on October 7, 1995 didn't make it a happy one. The Whalers blanked the Rangers 2-0 that afternoon. He was still playing for Hartford when the team played their final game prior to their relocation to North Carolina in 1997.

Burke did spend most of the latter portion of his career with the Phoenix Coyotes in good times and in bad. He was their starting goaltender during the 2001-2002 season when the Coyotes last made the playoffs and recorded a career-high 33 wins in 60 games. Hard to believe that was five years ago. That goalie mask with the motorcycle painted on it definitely is etched into my hockey memory bank.

Just before the lockout, Burke returned to Philadelphia during the stretch run of the 2003-2004 campaign, but only played 38 more games in the NHL. At this point in time without a team calling to see if he's available to try out at training camp for any of the 30 teams, the 40-year-old Burke realized it was time to put away the goalie equipment and retire.

Is Burke a future Hall of Famer? Not likely. He has 324 regular season wins to his credit (19th on the NHL's all-time list), but outside his rookie season, he didn't fare that well in the playoffs and no Stanley Cup championship to his resume. With a 336-373-101 career record (including playoffs) and 9 of his 12 postseason wins coming in 1988, it doesn't make for a good case to make the Hall of Fame.

Either way, with his three All-Star appearances (1989, 2000 and 2001) and 38 career shutouts, it shows Burke had an accomplished NHL career.

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