Burton's Stock Rises
by Adam Wodon/Managing Editor
Langley, British Columbia is a long way from Hamilton, New York, in a lot of ways.
But as Colgate junior Tyler Burton found out — when something just fits, you must commit.
Burton, a 5-foot-9 forward, was the first scholarship player in Colgate history. That was one lure. The other was a coaching staff that just felt right to him. When that coaching staff consists of veteran Don Vaughan, two-time coach of the year Stan Moore, and Colgate alum Brad Dexter, it's no wonder.
"It was just an honor to get that opportunity to be the first ever on scholarship," Burton said. "I've been trying the last two years to show I deserve it.
"I was comfortable. It's a place I knew I could be happy. It's the overall personality of the coaches and players. I've learned so much since I've been here. ... You enjoy coming to the rink every day."
Vaughan is well-respected as passionate and extremely likeable. Moore, now at Providence, is respected as a great teacher and someone never short of something interesting to say.
"I got really close to Stan over the recruiting process," Burton said. "He did a great job, it was tough to see him go. But at same time, when Brad Dexter came in, he didn't miss a beat. He fit right in."
Langley is a large suburb of Vancouver, while Hamilton — while home to a lovely campus — is in a desolate triangle between Albany, Binghamton and Syracuse, N.Y.
"It's a little different than being in the city back home, but it's a nice chance to get away to a small environment where you know everyone," said Burton, a history major. "And it's a beautiful campus."
Three years later, Burton is primed for a breakout season on a national scale, on a Colgate team picked to win the ECAC by preseason prognosticators. And Burton was named a preseason all-league first-teamer.
The 2004-05 ECAC Rookie of the Year, Burton helped a team that went to the NCAA tournament, falling agonizingly short of knocking off top seed Colorado College in the Midwest Regional. Last season, the Raiders shared the ECAC regular-season title, as Burton had 40 points.
But Colgate still has not been able to advance to the ECAC title game even, and lost some key players, including Burton's linemate, Jon Smyth. That means guys like Burton will have to add an extra level to their game.
"He continues to get better," Vaughan said. "He has such a strong passion for the game, and it's very genuine. A lot of guys say they have it, but only a select few at that level really have it. He shows up with a smile on his face."
Said Burton, "I want to be an all-around player. I'm known a lot for offensive abilities. Last year I was put into more defensive roles."
While there may be an extra gear for Burton to give, there's one thing you don't have to worry about: Taking a look at his college career to date, you see a startling hallmark of consistency. There are pros and cons to the type of players who can go cold for a couple weeks, then go on amazing runs of multi-goal games — but there's something to be said for the guy who can be counted on for a couple points almost every night.
"He's very similar to [Colgate alum and current NHL skater] Andy MacDonald," Vaughan said. "I'm not saying he's Andy MacDonald, but he has that same attitude towards the game. He's had another great summer.
"Tyler's got a huge heart. He wins a lot of battles for a little guy."
Another thing Colgate hasn't done in Burton's tenure is defeat Cornell. While the Big Red have a variety of rivals in the ECAC, for Colgate, the Big Red weekend is the biggest of the year. And don't let the small arenas on the two campuses fool you — when both teams are good at the same time, as they have been lately, it means an intensity to the games as large as any in the nation.
"Hopefully this will be our year. I know we have the team to do it," said Burton about the rival that's a little more than an hour's drive down the road.
"Ask any guy, it's the favorite weekend of the year. It's like nothing I've ever experienced before — the two schools, the competitiveness of it, the atmosphere. It's an unbelievable feeling stepping on the ice on both nights."
As skeptical as the people back in Langley are about leaving the big city for the farmland, they are just as in need of convincing about the Colgate-Cornell rivalry.
"I tell family and friends, the only way to truly experience it is to see it first hand," said Burton.
"In B.C., where I live, college hockey is getting and bigger every year. The word is spreading. Most people want to get an education out of hockey."
But wins over Cornell and success at the ECACs in Albany are but just two steps along a path that Colgate is truly looking for this year — the chance to win a game on the national stage, something it hasn't done since 1990, despite coming agonizingly close in both 1999 and 2005.
"You try to forget and move on, but you always remember that feeling of what it's like to lose a big game, and you always want a chance to redeem yourself," said Burton.