One of the more exciting aspects of the WHL is that it produces, and has produced, some of the most exciting players on the planet. Players bound for the glory and paychecks of the NHL, tomorrow’s stars today, is one of the league’s most ardent selling points to the legion of fans that click its turnstiles each year.
But for every Jarret Stoll, Steve McCarthy, Mike Comrie or Dan Blackburn there are just as many Clayton Pool’s, Brad Tutschek’s and Wade Burt’s. Players that, while their time in the WHL is based perhaps more on heart and hard work rather than goals and glory, don’t find the same success offered by pro hockey.
Wade Burt is one of those players. Arguably the hardest working player on the 2000 WHL championship team, Burt’s contribution came in the trenches. The corner’s, penalty-killing and team defense were his forte, not exactly the glory of the offense or star goaltending but you never saw Burt take a shift off, something that earned him favor with the blue-collar fans of the Kootenays.
Realizing toward the waning years of his junior career that a post secondary education was the path to follow, Burt has now completed his second year of university at the University of Alberta in Edmonton. Playing hockey as a member of the U of A Golden Bears, Burt still longs for the lure of the pro game and will pursue it, but he’ll be armed with a Bachelor of Education degree in three years backing him up just in case. “After my second year (of junior) the whole education thing kind of clued in,” said Burt, in Cranbrook for the Kootenay ICE Player’s Education Fund annual golf tournament. “I realized that I wasn’t really fit for the professional ranks so
I focused on a thought that was telling me that school was the way to go and that I’d probably end up in school sometime.”
As one who’s benefitting directly from fund-raising initiatives such as the golf tournament, Burt is only too happy to play in a tournament that’ll someday help out the education of the players playing right now. The impact of having his tuition and books paid for four years as a result of his career in the WHL is an important one. “It’s awesome because it gives us more opportunity to train in the summers,” said Burt who’s studying to become a teacher. “We don’t really have to focus as much on working as hard at a job to come up with the tuition. That’s about three or four thousand a year and that’s great because when we do graduate, we graduate debt-free, which is a big thing because I have friends up here that take between five and six thousand dollar student loans a year. For us to have it paid for is awesome because we don’t have to worry about paying any student loans back.”
Burt is currently in a five-year combined education program at the U of A with Physical Education as his major and Special Education as a minor. With the
special education portion of his degree, Burt will be flexible to teach both at the high school and primary levels but high school is his focus. Living in Edmonton year round where he works at Lewis Estates Golf Course with the grounds crew, the Grand Forks, B.C. native would love to return to his home province one day to ply his trade but after graduation plans on doing what paid for him to get through college in the first place, playing hockey. “After I grad I’m going to play somewhere,” offered Burt. “I’m going to tour around for a year or two and see how it is.”
Although working at a golf course might imply a ringer for the charity tournament, Burt wouldn’t divulge his handicap going in. For reasons either strategic or shameful, Burt wasn’t talking. “We don’t really have to discuss that,” said Burt. “I’ve improved a lot though, you’ll see.”
With plans to develop an alumni association of former Kootenay/Edmonton ICE players in the future Burt, as a member of the 2000 Kootenay club that played their way to the Memorial Cup in Halifax and watched as a fan of the ’02 club that brought back the hardware from Guelph, can’t help but compare the two clubs and cites the experience of the five remaining members from both teams that made the difference in winning. “I think they went into (the tournament) more prepared,” said Burt. “The way that they handled it the second time around was much more businesslike than the first time.”
“But they had some great players and the chemistry they had, just from watching them, you could see it. It was there at all times. It was fun to see but I don’t know if I would say outright that they were a better team than us, but they’d give us a good go.”