October 23, 2012– When the general manager and head coach of the Gatineau Olympiques, Benoit Groulx made Taylor Burke his first pick (7th overall) of the QMJHL draft in June 2010, who could have predicted that his new gem would be kept out of the competition in 55 games over the past two seasons.
Without saying that the Gatineau organization would of changed their mind at the last minute, we could say that they would certainly of thought about it twice before calling the powerful forward’s name who they’ve had an eye on for several weeks already. Change of mind or not, the organization, which had very high expectations towards Burke, was expecting him to bring a little more offensive to its top two lines and had good intends to offer him quality ice time in their 2010-2011 season. “We were counting on several leading players and I was very excited to have the opportunity to grow with them at such a young age, he admitted. On the other hand, it’s true I was very anxious, but it quickly helped me to gain confidence and feel more comfortable on the ice.”
Like it or not, the 6’1 and 195 pounds forward simply couldn’t of hope for a better scenario. In addition to playing in the QMJHL in his first year of eligibility, the young man of 16 years old also had the opportunity to rotate on the first two lines of a team which included outstanding players such as Jean Gabriel Pageau, Tye McGinn, Nicolas Deslauriers, Hubert Labrie and Maxime Clermont. Without a doubt, a multitude of young players would have paid good money to be at his place and live such an experience. “Having the chance to meet veterans of the caliber of these guys was just an amazing experience for me, admits Burke. It allowed me to see how they behaved in various game situations and how they acted outside the rink. I have no doubt, they greatly helped me to become the player and person I am now.”
After having experienced a fairly acceptable beginning of the 2010-2011 season alongside his teammates, the rest of it wasn’t very successful for the number 19. Affected by a long series of blows of fate over the next nine months, the forward finally was forced to miss 29 of the 68 games of Gatineau ending at the same time his first season in the Q with 12 (3-9) points in 39 games. “Let’s say it was a very frustrating season, he admitted. You know when you’re injured, you feel really helpless and worst of all you can’t do anything to help your team on the ice. It’s for sure that I would have liked to have more points than that but I was comfortable with the performance offered in other aspects of my game. Actually, I rather play a little more of a defensive role and kill penalties.”
Even if Taylor Burke has never had the opportunity to demonstrate his new bosses what he was made of, the hockey player native of Halifax ensures that there is lot of positive to take from this eventful first year. Although he would have preferred to help his friends to win the famous President Cup that sled between their hands, Burke admits of learning a lot alongside guys like Jean-Gabriel Pageau, Hubert Labrie, Philip-Michael Devos, Tye McGinn and Maxime Clermont on a daily basis. “My first season with the Olympiques represented a very rewarding experience for me and our many veterans have given me a helping hand throughout the year, he said. Thanks to them, I developed a good work ethic and awareness to the small details that had led them to their success. I believe that the development of good habits was crucial to my growth as a player. “
Bad Luck continues to hit
With the departure of eight veterans and the arrival of a dozen of rookies in the 2011-2012 edition for Gatineau, you guessed correctly, Taylor Burke had every reason in the world to look into the future with optimism. In addition to his new role to help the young rookies offensively, Taylor instantly became a leader of the team, which was with no doubt pleasing him after all the bad experiences he’s been through in the past 12 months. “It was a great motivation and I was eager to return to the competition, he remembers. My head coach, Benoit Groulx, seemed to trust me and it helped me gain confidence on the ice.”
But once again, Burke had to resign by visiting the infirmary more times then he should of. Without saying that the season was as frustrating and disappointing as the last one, we must admit that he was never able to do himself justice to his fair value at the Robert-Guertin Centre, where he’s missed 29 of the 72 games including the playoffs. “Again, I was hoping to be able to collect a few more points and contribute more offensively, he admitted. However, I think I’ve been able to improve other aspects of my game that helped me become the player I am now.”
Unlike the last season, where the Olympiques were counting on many veterans and a multitude of impact offensive players, Benoit Groulx’s troop did not have an impressive year. In addition of collecting the ups and downs and accumulating a respectable 62 points in 68 games, it also finished the season in 4th place in the West Telus division and 14th overall in the Q. Situation even more frustrating for Taylor Burke, confide to watch from the stands of the “Old Bob” saw that his teammates needed a minimum of reinforcement on the ice. “Being in the stands is never a nice feeling and it’s even less when your team loses, he notes. You always hope to be able to help your team and your teammates to win and to be honest; it was very frustrating for me. That said, I just had to keep training myself hard in the gym and make sure to be 100% ready when I would receive the green light from the doctors.”
The calm after the storm
A sign that Taylor Burke can finally glimpse at better days and look straight ahead, the number 19 is now accumulating the good news at a frantic pace and finally collecting the benefits of his hard work. For example, while he was sweating with some friends last summer in Halifax the general manager of the Dallas Stars, Joe Nieuwendyk decided to contact the Burke family to invite him to the development camp of his team. After having gone through pain and misery for the past two seasons, Burke couldn’t have found a better source of motivation to double the effort on the ice. “ It was a real honor for me, he confirms, I was extremely pleased to have such an opportunity and it was very motivating to know that my hard work was finally recognized at its fair value after all these years. It gave me the energy to keep working hard and it also allowed me to gain a lot of confidence.”
« In my humble opinion, I think I’ve done a very good job in Dallas, he said. It was really amazing to have the chance to meet players of their caliber and see how things work in the professional level. It really helped me to become aware of what to do to reach the NHL. »
Once back from Texas, where he among other things had the chance to meet his former captain, Hubert Labrie, he presented himself to the training camp of the Olympiques in a resplendent shape with a renewed confidence maybe because he was just named home captain. An honor, which was according to many of his peers, was fully deserved. “Being named co-captain of the Olympiques is a great privilege for me, he admitted. It gave me much more confidence as a player and I was shown that when you work hard you always get rewarded one day or the other. With that said, I think I just need to continue to work hard and be a leader on and off the ice.”
Knowing full well that he’ll need to play an astonishing 2012-2013 season if he wants to continue forcing the hand of the Dallas Stars organization this winter, the captain of the Gatineau Olympiques is having an out of the ordinary beginning of season. As I’m writing these lines, Taylor Burke, is ranked second top scorer of his team with 9 points (4-5) in ten games. “It is certain that I am very blessed they are keeping an eye on me and I must admit it gives me another source of motivation but I just want to focus on what I have to do on the ice and concentrate all my energy on my team. You know, I had to gain a lot of confidence and work extremely hard over the last two seasons to become the player I am today. I tried to improve certain aspects of my game, it helped me become a better athlete and I think I’m having a good start this season so far. “He said.
Simon Bédard, special collaboration