The newest New York Riveters’ defender, Courtney Burke, is expected to make a big impact on Chad Wiseman’s revamped blue line. Burke was a standout for the University of Wisconsin and was the first defender selected in the 2015 NWHL Draft.
The Albany, New York native scored 108 points in 153 games for the Badgers and was nearly a point-per-game defender in her senior season. The Riveters surprised the women’s hockey world when they signed Burke, who was drafted by the Buffalo Beauts, to a one-year, $17,000 contract.
Signing another team’s draft pick cost the Riveters $5,000 in cap space, but adding Burke to a blue line that was also joined by Kaleigh Fratkin was a big step toward the Riveters being a significantly better possession team. Burke and Fratkin joined inaugural season standouts Ashley Johnston and Kiira Dosdall to form what will likely be two of the league’s best defensive pairs.
Burke recently agreed to an interview with Today’s Slapshot about signing with the Riveters.
Today’s Slapshot: Was playing in the NWHL something that was on your mind throughout your senior year at Wisconsin?
Courtney Burke: I wouldn’t have said that it was on my mind. I was more focused on finishing school, finishing my hockey season, and focusing on playing through the season. But after I was done with the season, that’s what I turned my focus to.
TSS: What do you think was the most valuable lesson you learned about being an athlete during your time at school?
Burke: That’s a hard one. You’re making me think! I would just say hard work.
Burke: You know you’re so busy with school and playing a sport that I think you just have to stay focused and keep working hard.
TSS: How did you feel when you heard that you were the first defender selected during the 2015 NWHL draft?
Burke: I was really excited! I didn’t really know that it was going on. No one had really ever told me about it, so I started getting tweets and stuff to my phone and then I realized. I didn’t even know what was going on, but it was pretty cool. It’s a cool thing to have.
TSS: What do you anticipate being the biggest difference between Division I college hockey and playing in the NWHL?
Burke: The pool of players is so much smaller, so there are a lot better players on every team than [there was] in college. [In college] the players were scattered everywhere, I think they’re all going to be in one place now with the four teams.
TSS: What made you decide to sign with the Riveters over the Beauts?
Burke: I just really liked what Chad [Wiseman] was offering with team. He really sounds like he wants to win and wants to do great things. He really made me jump on board with that, and I’m two hours away from the area, so that will be good too.
TSS: Is there anything that Chad [Wiseman], when he talked to you about joining the team, how did he describe what New York Riveters hockey is going to be like to you?
Burke: I think he just wants to change the culture of the program. He just wants to have a good team and he seemed like a guy that was trustworthy. I really liked what he had to say about that kind of stuff. I don’t think it was one thing that really stood out to me, he knew what he wanted to do with the program and it made me want to jump on board.
TSS: Being a New York native, is it important for you to play for the Riveters, being so close to your hometown?
Burke: No, I wouldn’t say that it’s important. It’s obviously an added bonus and it’ll be nice to be close, but I wouldn’t have said that was really a driving factor though.
TSS: How would you describe your game, and your style of play?
Burke: I would say I’m more of a passer, I can see the ice very well, and I look for other players on the ice. I try and set them up for opportunities to score.
TSS: So you’d describe yourself as a puck-moving defender?
Burke: Yeah, more of a distributor than anything [else].
TSS: Have you spoken to any of your future Riveters teammates yet?
Burke: Yeah, I went to school with Madison Packer, so I’ve been in contact with her a bit.
TSS: Is there anything in particular you’re really looking forward to about the upcoming season?
Burke: I’m just looking forward to being able to keep playing and being able to extend my playing career past just college. So just getting the games going will be fun.