Solid foundation has Burke on road to success

Photo: Zak Krill

📝 by Patrick Sumner | AHL On The Beat

Having a solid supporting foundation is important for everybody, and Callahan Burke, center for the Colorado Eagles, is no different.

For many hockey players, traveling across the globe to chase their dreams often involves a struggle to find those to rely on through the ups and downs. That’s not the case for Burke, who uses his family, teammates, and coaches to help him be successful on a day-to-day basis.

Burke was born in Boxborough, Massachusetts, where the Boston Bruins and hockey are prominent. And with a father that played hockey at a high level, the sport was an easy path to follow. Garrett Burke played for UMass-Lowell in the late 80’s and ended up coaching his son through the ranks of youth hockey in the Massachusetts area.

Callahan credits his father for teaching him the game: “Everything I know about the game is from him.”

From the time he was learning to skate up until high school, having his dad as his coach meant that Burke wasn’t allowed to cut corners, but was instead able to develop as a hockey player even more with his father behind the bench. Even now, the two “talk after every game,” allowing Burke to ask for advice and share his thoughts, even if it’s through his phone instead of inside a locker room.

Burke’s younger brother Cameron has also played a huge role in his support system, as they have been teammates several times throughout their careers and train together in the offseason. The two “push each other to be better” and sharpen each other’s skills.

In his late teens, Burke decided not to play junior hockey in Canada but instead chose to attend the University of Notre Dame to further his education and play hockey at the same time. Burke says that growing up in the U.S. played a major role in attending college, along with his “love for the Fighting Irish” as a kid. After “learning how good of a school it was” along with “how awesome the hockey program is,” Burke found his home and played at Notre Dame for four years.

“It made me a well-rounded person,” Burke said about his time on campus, where the importance of leadership and community was ingrained in him.

After graduating from high school, Cameron Burke followed in his brother’s footsteps by attending Notre Dame and playing for the hockey team during Callahan’s junior year. Sharing the ice was something that helped create a strong base for the two, as they were able to continue pushing each other to develop as players and students.

In 2020, Callahan Burke graduated with a degree in analytics and was signed to the Colorado Eagles to start his professional hockey career. He cited playing at the NCAA level, where he competed against stronger and older competition, helping to ease his transition to the AHL, allowing him to physically develop and learn more about the game before jumping into the professional level.

Photo: Colorado Eagles

Since arriving in Loveland in 2020, Burke has been accompanied by some familiar faces, as he has had the chance to play in the AHL with former college teammates Dennis Gilbert, Nate Clurman, and Jordan Gross.

“Colorado has a thing for Notre Dame guys, I guess,” Burke said.

Having these familiar faces around helped him finding his game more quickly. Due to the existing chemistry, and because they “all knew how each other played and what they bring,” Burke had the rare opportunity of joining a new team with familiar teammates. Burke lived with Gilbert in his first year with the Eagles, where commutes and dinner conversations were shared every day. The group already shared “a tight bond” and could talk about anything with each other in their time of adjustment.

The result has been Burke taking a step forward in his development this season and showing up on the scoresheet more often. While his relationships with his teammates contributed to his success, he also mentions how his coaches have played a vital role in improving his scoring.

“They’ve really believed in me the whole time,” Burke noted. The coaches pointed out several things they thought he could work on in the offseason and had faith that Callahan could become “someone who could score.”

The coaching staff’s intuition was right, as Burke currently sits fourth on the team with 10 goals and has added 14 assists in 44 games. His jump in production hasn’t gone unnoticed, as in December he signed a one-year deal with the Colorado Avalanche.

Signing an NHL deal is something that almost every kid playing hockey dreams of doing, and Callahan was no exception.

“It was awesome,” Burke said when asked about what it was like putting pen to paper. His agent gave him the news via a phone call and Callahan could only describe it as “super rewarding” and considers himself lucky to be able to stay in Colorado.

“I’ve loved Colorado since I’ve come here and I’m grateful to have the chance to be with the Eagles and stay with this team and this community,” said Burke.

The 24-year-old has put in a lot of work to get where he is, and along with the help of his friends, family, teammates and coaches, Burke is producing at a higher level and helping the Eagles win.

When accounting for everyone who has helped him along the way and the people in Loveland who have contributed to his success, he says, “I wouldn’t want to be anywhere else.”