Carolina Hurricanes’ Blast from the Past: Sean Burke


Our trip down Carolina Hurricanes, memory lane takes us to Sean Burke the franchise’s very first starting goaltender.

The list of starting goaltenders for the Carolina Hurricanes is not a very long one.  Ward, Irbe, Gerber, Kidd.  But we’re going to focus on Sean Burke today who was the very first starting goaltender for the newly relocated team.  Sure he was the starting goaltender for the Whalers as well, but that shouldn’t take away the honor of being the first for our illustrious franchise.  Let’s take a look at Burke’s career and see where it takes us.

Early Career

The New Jersey Devils drafted Sean Burke in the second round of the 1985 draft, but it wouldn’t be until the 1988 season that Burke would play an NHL game.  During his time before that Burke played both for Canada’s junior team in 1986 and Canada’s Olympic team in the 1988 Winter Olympics in Calgary.  Burke was the starting goalie for both teams and led the junior team to a silver place finish and the Olympic team to fourth.  Remember this was before the Olympics allowed professionals to compete in the games so a fourth-place finish was still pretty impressive given the Russian Machine was still in its glory days.

Related Story: Blast from the Past: Shane Willis

Once Burke reached the NHL though, he caught fire.  He only played eleven regular season games for the Devils but won ten of them and earned the starting goaltending job going into the playoffs where ultimately the Devils would lose to the Bruins in the conference finals.  Some even claimed that Burke was the future of Devils goaltending.  But that didn’t last long because the Devils traded the goalie in the summer of 1992 after Burke sat out the entire season over a contract dispute.  During his time with the Devils Burke posted a .876 SV% which I can’t tell is good or not because nobody knew how to play defense or goalie back then.

Time with the Carolina Hurricanes/Hartford Whalers

Yeah, that team I mentioned New Jersey traded their future of goaltending to was the Hartford Whalers.  The Devils wanted nothing to do with Burke’s attitude so they

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shipped him and Eric Weinrich to the Whalers and got Bobby Holik, a 2nd round pick, and a conditional pick in 1994.  It seems that New Jersey had drafted another goalie in the first round of the 1991 draft.  Their pick was a good French Canadian boy.  I’ll have to look up how that worked out for the Devils.  But not right now I’ll do it later.

Burke’s time with the Whalers was pretty uneventful.  None of those teams were very good a description that could describe pretty much every Whaler’s team in history.  During his time in Hartford, Sean Burke earned a record of 100-120-24 with a .903 SV%.  League average during this time hovered around .900 so Burke was a somewhat above average goaltender behind some very bad teams.

Although at times Burke made saves like these (around the 36-second mark):

I think my favorite thing about this video is that the person recording it has to adjust the tracking on his VHS man those were good days.  I’m sure some whippersnappers are going, “LOL wut???” don’t worry about them, though.  Also if you stay to the end of the clip, the number one save is Jamie MacLennon on a young Rod Brind’Amour.

Burke would make the move down to Raleigh after the franchise’s relocation where he resumed his starting goaltending position, but unfortunately, would not play very well and the Hurricanes traded Burke to the Vancouver Canucks for Martin Gelinas and Kirk McLean.  Can’t really blame the Hurricanes as Burke posted a poor .889 SV%.  And so ended the reign of the Carolina Hurricanes very first starting goaltender.

I don’t know about you but it seems like the Hurricanes have a hard time figuring out this whole picking good goaltenders things.  They might want to work on that if they expect to be good anytime in the near future.

Time after Raleigh

Burke would get traded again in the 1998 season from the Vancouver Canucks to the Philadelphia Flyers.  The only highlight I could find of his time in Vancouver was a goalie fight between Scott Shields and Sean Burke:

And this one between Sean Burke and Matt Barnaby man the 1998 Canucks and Sabres did not like each other at all.

The next season he started out playing for the Flordia Panthers who would then trade him to the Arizona Coyotes.  It would be his tenure with the Arizona Coyotes that Burke played his best hockey.  In the 2001 and 2002 seasons, Burke posted a .921 SV% and would make the All-Star team both years.  In the 2002 season, Burke would even be a finalist for both the Vezina and Hart trophy although he would win neither.

After his time in Arizona, Burke bounced around the league for the remainder of his career.  He played for Philly (again), Tampa Bay, and the L. A. Kings.  Burke announced his retirement at the end of the 2007 season and in 2008 the Coyotes hired Burke to be their Director of Prospect Development and worked his way up to Assistant to the General Manager.

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Also during his time with the Coyotes front office Burke was the goaltending coach and helped turn players like Ilya Bryzgalov, Mike Smith, and Devan Dubnyk into all-star goaltenders.  Burke left the organization before the 2015 season and is not working in the NHL as he looks for a more front office job instead of a goalie coach position.