October 29, 2009 PRINT Bookmark and Share

From Camp to Class: Burke returns to UNH

by Joseph Edwards/CHN Writer

Forgive Greg Burke if he's a bit more familiar with the University of New Hampshire campus, specifically the Whitemore Center Arena, than the rest of his freshman teammates.

The 6-foot-3, 205-pound forward has been running around the campus since he was 8 years old, and much less sizeable. As a local youth from nearby Lee, N.H., Burke attended the Dick Umile Hockey School in Durham, and, years later, has become the first graduate to come back and play for the coach.

"I went for a few years when I was 8, 9 and 10; it was a week you look forward to in the summer with all of your buddies," says Burke, who registered his first collegiate point in last weekend's 5-2 win over rival Maine. "It got instense, there was a lot of trash talk going on between all the guys on your 'rival' teams. You got coached by all the guys you watched. Mark Mowers coached when I was there, he was everyone's favorite."

The school, Umile says, is more of a day camp-hockey school for local youths than a recruiting tool.

"The age group is primarily 7-10, so it's not like we're thinking about scouting these kids," the coach laughs. "I don't expect them to come to school. We get to know the local kids, they're around all the time, they come to our games — they're big fans of ours. Maybe sometimes we're the reason why they got going, why the kept with hockey. Not that many make it to this level."

But it sure is nice when to have a head start on some of the local talent. It helped even more that Burke stayed in the area to play his first round of junior hockey with the Manchester Jr. Monarch in the Eastern junior Hockey League, where he caught the eye of Wildcats coaches by leading the team with 21 goals and 46 points. After committing to UNH, he jumped to Cedar Rapids of the USHL for the 2008-09 season, though an injury kept him to just eight games. It was enough for the Washington Capitals to make him their sixth-round pick in 2008.

"Getting drafted was one of the coolest days of my life," he says. "It's really stressful if you think about it, and I thought about it. There's people calling you at school during classes asking to meet you, it really takes over your life. It's not guarenteed, there's a lot of good hockey players that don't get drafted. I sat at my computer, and had to get up and walk around. When my name finally popped up, I had to check and make sure there wasn't another Greg Burke."

This season, though, he's the only Greg Burke around, and he's finally able to pull on the blue-and-white in Durham, joining a couple of other fellow student-athletes from the Granite State in Paul Thompson and Brian Foster.

“I with played Paul for four years in Manchester, so there's some chemistry," Burke says. The two have already played on the same line at times, adding a bit more surrealism to Burke's experience. "Practice [at UNH] is like practice anywhere else. It's the little things, walking into the locker room and having jerseys to sign, seeing your jersey hanging up. I've waited a long time for this. It's a feeling I've never had before. That's one of the big things. Being drafted is a reward, but that process has just begun. There's still a long way to go. Putting on the jersey now is a bit more special."

For Umile, having local players on his team is a source of pride, especially with a much more 'homegrown' talent in Burke.

"I always like when they introduce the roster each season and there are kids from the area on the team," he says. "Greg is the first one [from the camp] to make it as far as he has, you know, getting drafted, playing college hockey. If you can play for your state university, it's pretty rewarding."

How much of that reward can Umile reap? Well, he's got another instructor for his hockey school, should he want one.

"I'll coach if I'm asked," Burke laughs.

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