|Veteran player, Scott Burt, has been a leader for the up-and-coming Utah Grizzlies.|
After spending the past seven seasons with the Idaho Steelheads, Burt landed in Salt Lake City after Grizzlies coach Jason Christie offered him what the Steelheads couldn’t -- a guaranteed contract.
Burt left his family and friends behind in Boise to join an extremely young club in Utah. He knew virtually nobody. The championship he won in Idaho just a few months prior probably seemed like a million years ago.
“It didn’t work out for me going back there,” Burt told NHL.com. “I got offered to try out with the team this year, but I got a guarantee here. It hurt me more than anything that I couldn’t go back to Boise, but Coach Christie has given me the chance to get that fun back in the game. It wasn’t that I lost it, but maybe Idaho just wasn’t going to give it to me. The fun’s back in the game, especially with these young guys.”
Burt has been the leader of the up-and-coming Grizzlies both on and off the ice. In 50 games, the 31-year-old has tallied 21 goals, 25 assists and 114 penalty minutes.
Utah, meanwhile, has won four in a row and seven of 10 to pull into third place in the West Division at 26-20-4. The Double-A affiliate of the New York Islanders is hot on the heels of the defending champs, as the second-place Steelheads are just five points ahead. Victoria currently leads the division with 65 points.
While the talent has been there since Day One – the Isles have been calling up Utah players to AHL Bridgeport all season long – the Grizzlies’ biggest challenge this season has been maturity. The young club is finally starting to play as a cohesive unit, which ultimately explains this recent success.
“I think it comes down to the guys that we have and the leaders that we have,” Burt said. “To bring a group of guys together … it’s pretty hard, especially when you only have two or three guys that played last year on this team. You get your squabbles here and there in a family, but so far everything’s been going well for us.”
After years of coaching against Burt, Christie is thrilled to finally have the seasoned veteran on his side. In a sense, Burt is almost a third coach on the team following Christie and assistant coach Kevin Colley.
“He’s huge,” Christie said. “He plays a big part on our team. The young guys, right from Day One, they set the tone as far as getting better as a group. You have to have your older guys who want to push that. It’s good to have older guys around.”
While the Sound Tigers have been rewarding their prospects in Utah throughout the season, they’ve also noticed what Burt has accomplished in the ECHL this season. They recently rewarded the veteran forward with a one-game promotion to the AHL, which was the first of his career.
At first, Burt was lukewarm about making the trip. The ultimate team player asked if one of his younger Utah teammates could take his place. But the Sound Tigers wanted Burt. He obliged, and in the end went through an unforgettable experience.
“They told me they wanted to call me up and I said to send one of the young guys,” Burt said. “They said to go up there and enjoy it. I played a game and had fun. I think it showed some of these young guys that anyone can get called up. It was an experience. It was pretty special, but if it ever happens again I would try to push a young guy.”
|In 50 games, Burt has tallied 21 goals and 25 assists.|
That probably won’t be necessary. Justin Bourne, who represented the Grizzlies at last month’s ECHL All-Star Game, was promoted to Bridgeport earlier this week and is just the latest player on Christie’s club to get the call. Perhaps it’s no coincidence that the string of call-ups has players in Utah giving 110 percent each and every shift?
“At one point, I think we had seven or eight guys up there,” Burt said. “That bodes well for a lot of these young guys that we have on our team. With this affiliation with Bridgeport and the Islanders, you’re going to get a chance to eventually move up to the American Hockey League. You can see a difference when these kids go up there and then they come back down. They’ve got a little more jump in their step.”
And when they do return, they have coaches both behind the bench and on the ice. Burt admitted this season has been an eye-opener for him, as he may ultimately decide to pursue a coaching career once his playing days conclude.
“A lot of these young guys have been telling me; ‘Burtie, you’re going to be a helluva coach,’” Burt said. “It’s pretty funny because I do look beyond that. I try to give my input to the coaches as much as I can. Coach knows the kind of player I am and he’s seen me the last three years. It’s funny that I’m actually getting a chance at this age to come out there and they’re letting me play my game. It’s working out. We’ll see what goes on past this year and in the next few years.”
Around the ECHL -- The ECHL announced the fifth annual Kelly Cup tour will begin on Feb. 23 at Mississippi. The 42-day tour will cover 5,677 miles and is slated to visit six cities in six states. … The Bakersfield Condors signed defenseman Martin Kubaliak. … The Pensacola Ice Pilots recently had their new lease approved by the county commission, which assures the club is staying put through the 2010-11 season. There is also an option for another two years. … The Colorado Avalanche re-assigned former first-round pick Jason Bacashihua to the Johnstown Chiefs. The goalie, who was selected 26th overall in the 2001 Draft by the Dallas Stars, appeared in 38 games for the St. Louis Blues between 2005 and 2007. He’s expected to play for Johnstown on Friday night before heading to AHL Lake Erie.
Contact Brian Compton at: email@example.com.