BOSTON — Two years ago, when Frozen Fenway last took over Fenway Park, the Warriors were introduced to their most important teammate.
Tim Burke, now a “junior” at Merrimack College through Team Impact, is in his third season with Merrimack’s program. Well, actually, he’s a freshman at the Dexter School in Brookline, but Burke and the Warriors have been attached at the hip since their first meeting back in 2012.
Merrimack senior Mike Collins, a Boston native who scored the Warriors’ lone goal in yesterday’s 1-1 tie with Providence at Frozen Fenway 2014, was asked about his favorite Fenway memories.
His attention immediately turned to his youngest teammate.
“I have a lot of memories here with Tim Burke,” Collins said. “We came to a lot of Sox games with him. We got hooked up with him through Team Impact. He’s 13 and we came here with him these past few summers a lot. The Red Sox players and organization treated him like one of their own, so we got to go on the field, tour the clubhouse with him. Those are my best memories here.”
Burke was one of the Warriors yesterday.
While many Merrimack players were calling this a “once in a lifetime” opportunity, it was for Burke as well. Cold temperatures forced many of the Warriors to wear layers under their gear and eye black under their eyes, something Burke was more than happy to join in with.
“When we drafted him to our team, we rented the ice here and it was the first time we met him, he came to that event. Now he’s a freshman at Dexter but he considers himself a junior here. He was in a wheelchair (when we were first met) and now, knock on wood.”
That first skate was held at night, and also included a reception for Merrimack supporters.
“I didn’t know what time I was going to meet them originally,” said Burke recalling his first meeting with the Warriors in a video package, put together by Team Impact last year.
“I couldn’t sleep (the night before) because of my treatment, so I woke up at 6 a.m. and just waited all day to meet them; it felt like the longest day ever.”
It was almost as cold that first night — the photo from that night on the Fenway ice shows 30-something Merrimack players with hoodies, knit caps and scarfs around their necks — as it was last night.
“I just started to like the team,” Burke said. “It took off from there.”
And it didn’t stop there. Burke wasn’t just a teammate to the Warriors on game nights; he’s their teammate year round. Collins recalls summer nights here at Fenway. Two summers ago, after checking Twitter in the morning, I noticed that a group of Warriors on campus for the summer took him to a midnight showing of The Dark Knight Rises. Merrimack senior defenseman Jordan Heywood joked on Twitter that morning that Burke was the only person to stay awake.
Last year, when Burke learned he was cancer free, Collins and a group of Merrimack players were at the Burke house that night, donning superhero costumes to celebrate the occasion.
But that hasn’t ended Burke’s relationship with Merrimack hockey. It was just another step along the journey, as was yesterday. A full-circle moment.
Look-up Line Debuts The Thomas E. Smith Foundation for curing paralysis debuted its new Look-Up Line at Frozen Fenway yesterday. The line, which runs along the perimeter of the rink, is hockey's first warning track, hoping to decrease the risk of head and catastrophic neck injuries. "It is a preventative approach to making hockey safer without affecting the game's speed, intensity or heritage," the foundation wrote in a release. "All while not adding any new rules that may adversely impact play." The line was implemented with the help of the NCAA Rules Committee, the Fenway Sports Group and Hockey commissioner Joe Bertagna. The line extends 40 inches off the boards, serving as a warning to a player with a lowered head that the boards are near. "Any preventative measure is a good thing," Merrimack head coach Mark Dennehy said. "When you're talking about preventing catastrophic injuries, I think we should do whatever we can do. Another step, to be totally candid, would be to do what the coaches have asked to do, and that's go from the full cages back to half shields. Pain is an appropriate response, and when there is no pain to the way the players play, you start to feel like you're invincible. This is a step in the right direction, and I think moving away from full cages is another step in the right direction." Even if they weren't sure what it meant at first, the line served it's purpose: players were aware of it. "You definitely noticed it on the first few laps around," Merrimack winger Mike Collins said. The idea -- to serve as a warning for players without changing the game -- appears to have been successful. "Because of the ice it was a little faded," Providence winger Ross Mauermann said. "It was definitely noticeable. I'm not sure if it will change the game, but it does give players a warning."