EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

Merrimack Valley

November 1, 2012

Merrimack's little brother

Mom says team has been 'savior' for son with leukemia

NORTH ANDOVER — To no one’s surprise, two major college hockey polls have ranked Mary Burke’s alma mater and defending national champion Boston College as the No. 1 team in the country just two weeks into the season.

She respectfully disagrees.

“In my book, Merrimack College is No. 1,” said Burke, who lives with her family in South Boston. “And it’s not even close.”

Is she crazy, with Merrimack’s record a pedestrian 2-3-1 thus far? Or is she confused, still thinking about last January when Merrimack was indeed ranked No. 1 for two weeks?

None of the above.

The real answer is that Mary Burke is biased. And their play, which hasn’t been eye-opening thus far in this early 2012-13 season, has nothing to do with her ranking.

Her only child is on the Merrimack team ... at least that’s what he’s been made to feel like for over a year now.

Timmy Burke, 12, has been in a two-year battle with leukemia and Merrimack “drafted” him through a program called “Team Impact,” which formally matches up kids with life-threatening diseases with college teams.

This match wasn’t like most of the others. Timmy demanded to be part of the Merrimack hockey program — yes, demanded.

“Timmy’s cousin Devin Driscoll goes to Merrimack and when he was first diagnosed and in the hospital, Devin brought Timmy a signed jersey from the Merrimack team. Timmy was really impressed,” Mary Burke said. “Later, when we heard about Team Impact, they talked about pairing him up with a team from closer to where we live in Boston. Merrimack is about 40 to 50 minutes away. There is traffic.

“But none of that mattered to Timmy,” his mother said. “He wasn’t going to be a part of this if he couldn’t be drafted by Merrimack. Of course, he won.”

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