Energized by a summer respite to recover from double hip replacement surgery, Sean Burke is eager to make his mark on Team Europe and the 2016 World Cup of Hockey.
Burke was goaltending coach and assistant to the general manager for the Arizona Coyotes the past three seasons before leaving the organization in July when his contract expired. He started with the Coyotes as director of prospect development less than a year into his retirement from the NHL, so the medically induced break turned out to be a blessing in disguise.
"It was a good summer for me to mentally get a break and physically do what I needed to do," Burke said. "I've been going hard the last couple of years with the Coyotes, Team Canada, World Junior stuff. It was nice to get away."
A three-time NHL All-Star (1989, 2001, 2002) who played for eight NHL teams, Burke was named one of five scouts (Peter Bondra, Lorne Henning, Vaclav Nedomansky and Ricky Olczyk) for Team Europe. Tasked with helping construct a roster of players from European nations excluding Russia, Sweden, Finland and the Czech Republic, Burke has international clout. He won a silver medal for Canada at the 1986 IIHF World Junior Championship, silver at the 1992 Albertville Olympics and two gold medals in the IIHF World Championship (1997, 2003). He also worked on Hockey Canada's management team, helping build the group that won gold in the 2015 World Championship.
Burke, 48, joins team leader Franz Reindl, general manager Miroslav Satan, coach Ralph Krueger and assistant coach Paul Maurice on Team Europe's brain trust. He's confident the group has the elements in place to build a team capable of upsetting a field where his home country of Canada may be considered the favorite.
"My experience in all these international events is that it's great from a standpoint that if you're not the favorite, like we're not going to be, because of the format and the way these tournaments work, you have the ability to upset people," Burke said. "The way that usually happens is by having a team that comes together quickly. That will definitely be something that I will feel is really important, looking at not necessarily who the top players may all be, but how we build a team, who fits and who can contribute to us winning.
"I would hope we go into the tournament as a group believing that we're there to win it. That's going to start with the tone we set as a group."
Selected by the New Jersey Devils in the second round (No. 24) of the 1985 NHL Draft, Burke had 324 wins and 38 shutouts in 820 NHL games. His success as a player, executive and coach at the NHL and international levels were attractive enough for Satan to place a phone call to gauge interest in becoming a scout for Team Europe.
"I was excited," Burke said. "Obviously any time you are part of a tournament that features the best players in the world, the best management groups, you're going to be excited to work with different people than I have worked with before. You learn a lot, you have an opportunity to grow, and having participated in Olympics, Canada Cup and those things."
Though Satan said no one coach or scout will be responsible in evaluating a given position and the final roster will be a collective decision, Burke's forte is goaltending and the position is ripe with talent. Frederik Andersen of Denmark helped the Anaheim Ducks reach the Western Conference Final last season. Jaroslav Halak (New York Islanders) represented Slovakia in the past two Olympics. Jonas Hiller (Calgary Flames) won two of three games while allowing two goals on 68 shots for Switzerland at the 2014 Sochi Olympics.
Other options include Germans Philipp Grubauer (Washington Capitals) and Thomas Greiss (Islanders), and Switzerland's Reto Berra (Colorado Avalanche).
"We're very fortunate the guys that are on our list are quality, quality players," Burke said. "I don't think come tournament time we're going to be questioning our goaltending. I think it will be a very, very strong point for our club. Everybody says that. The goaltending for every country will be top-notch, but I don't think we're going to feel at the end of the day that we're taking a step below in that area."
The 2016 World Cup of Hockey will take place at Air Canada Centre in Toronto from Sept. 17-Oct. 1. Team Europe will play in Group A with Team Canada, Team Czech Republic and Team USA. Team Finland, Team Russia, Team Sweden and Team North America will be in Group B. All games will be televised by ESPN in the United States, and Sportsnet and TVA Sports in Canada.
"The ultimate challenge at the end of the day is building a team," Burke said. "It's a tournament that is short. It's not an 82-game schedule. You have to have the team come together very quickly. When you look at a group of names lots of things jump out at every one of us. But ultimately at the end of the day the goal for us in here is to build a team and have it come together very quickly, and that's an exciting challenge."