The Story of Burton Hockey
About Burton Hockey
Burton Hockey is the umbrella organization that oversees two leagues of informally-organized hockey, generally of the roller variety, in British Columbia. The original Burton Hockey group, now referred to as Burton United Socialist Hockey (BUSH), was founded in 2000 in Burton, British Columbia; a companion league, Vancouver Roller Hockey (VRH), was founded in 2005 by BUSH expatriates and is based in West Vancouver, British Columbia.
Both leagues of Burton Hockey operate under the same format: playing times are informally arranged, typically a few days to a week in advance, by members of the league. It is via this network of members that new players are also invited to join. Typically, each game is played by anywhere from six to twelve players, depending upon time, availability and rink size. Three-on-three is considered to be the ideal format for play. Teams are typically compiled using the sticks-in-the-middle method, with adjustments made as necessary in order to preserve fairness. Games are played until one team reaches five goals, after which a new game begins. Series are usually played to best-of-three or occasionally best-of-five. A typical day's session of play has two or three series (generally around six games). Overall performance over a session is considered to be more important than performance in an individual game. Burton Hockey emphasizes enjoyment and community amongst players over winning and losing, although personal pride and athletic achievement/improvement play a large role in driving Burton's players to better themselves on the rink and to better their leagues via the promotion of enthusiasm for strong play. These values are rooted in the small-town, working-class ethics of its founders and players, and the strong friendships and traditions that have been developed through Burton Hockey together with the players' continued desire to preserve these friendships and traditions through the continued growth of the game.
The History of Burton Hockey
Long before Burton Hockey was formalized as an entity, pickup hockey was played amongst high school friends in the asphalt basketball court of Burton Elementary School and in Fauquier at the Fauquier rink. Joern Hornhardt, Simon Hilton, Lorne and Laird Bilinski, Andrew Watson, Steven Stredulinsky and Chris Jackins, along with Fauquier natives Stefan Klopp, Ryan and Shawn Struck, and countless other local kids played for years in the small court, much as millions of Canadians have partaken in street hockey. Playing in a small basketball court with no boards or nets had its disadvantages, however, and a strong desire arose for a rink to be built in this quiet lakeside village in order for more formal games to take place. For years, the idea was put on the backburner, and the teenagers soon grew up and entered the adult world. Some stayed in the Arrow Lakes valley while others moved onto to university. Nevertheless, summer and holidays were filled with informal hockey gatherings both at the basketball court, the Fauquier Rink and inside the old community halls of Burton and Fauquier. Just north of Burton is the main village in the region, Nakusp; Nakusp was also where Burton and Fauquier residents went to high school. Over the years, many friendships were formed between the communities, and people such as Oliver and Bernie Koth-Kappus, Lee Orr, Kyle Kusch, Justin Gordon and Seamus O'Connor were drawn into the hockey circle. Without a rink, however, it was simply not worth the trip down the lake to Burton or Fauquier.
It was 1999 before funding for an outdoor rink in Burton was procured. Most of the players were now adults attending college or university, but were still interested in playing throughout the summer. Hornhardt, Hilton and Bilinski spearheaded the drive for the rink, going so far as to aid in its construction. In the autumn of 1999, an asphalt rink was constructed at the south end of John McCormack Memorial Park in Burton. The major piece of the puzzle had been put in place. That Christmas, an informal session was held inside the community hall in Fauquier with most of the players that would form the backbone of Burton Hockey (Hornhardt, Hilton, Klopp, Lorne Bilinski, O'Connor, Orr, the Koth-Kappus brothers) with one special addition- Kyle Kusch was enlisted to keep statistics, just for the fun of it.
The First Season
On 27 April 2000, the first session of the year on the new rink in Burton took place. Hornhardt, Hilton, Klopp, the Koth-Kappuses, the Bilinskis and Gordon were there, along with Mitch Peterson, Dylan Stevens of Nakusp and Karl Detta, another driving force the construction of the rink. Kusch was also there to keep statistics. Nine games were played, and the afternoon was a rousing success. No one knew it that day, but this was the first sanctioned session of Burton Hockey. The rules were simply implied and statistics were purley for amusement than for anything formal. What changed hockey in Burton did not take place that day, but three days later, after the next gathering. Kusch's stats were found to be an interesting incentive for play, and he was invited back by the players again. With two sessions and sixteen games' worth of statistics, Kusch decided to post the overall totals to his website. Word travelled fast in these small communities, and interests were piqued. Statistics would be meticulously recorded for every session from then on, and by the middle of May, players were already jostling for scoring leads and high save totals.
In the next three months, an astounding 205 games were played; an average of a session every four days as Hornhardt and the Koth-Kappus brothers worked feverishly to organize sessions. Very soon, more of the best players from Nakusp were regular fixtures in Burton to the point where it seemed like they had been there all along. Joining the above were Lee Orr, Joe Chwachka, Dustin Marchischuk, Aaron Anderson, Jared MacDonald (tragically lost in the second week of June) and dozens more. Lorne Bilinski went on the win the inaugural scoring championship over Oliver Koth-Kappus, although Koth-Kappus was the eminent defensive player along with Chwachka. The enigmatic Lyle Detta personified the Burton spirit in net, turning away shot after shot, hacking and slashing oncoming traffic with a beer in his blocker hand and a cigarette under his mask. Seamus O'Connor and Justin Gordon began a rivalry that would persist for years both on skates and in goal. The heat of August stopped the season dead, but a tradition had been born. Over three dozen players took part in the first season. One session was played at Christmas, not on the frozen rink but in the gymnasium of the Nakusp high school, marking Burton Hockey's first excursion outside of Burton.
Perhaps it was burnout; more likely it was the long absences of the original organizers, but 2001 and 2002 were the lean years of Burton Hockey. Less than 70 games were played in those two years, basically restricted to a core group of about a dozen players. Hornhardt and Klopp, long the main organizers, were now permanently located in Calgary and Vancouver. Three sessions in April 2001 seemed to start the season quickly, but nothing was to happen again until August. Burton Hockey, it seemed, would solely be based around their schedules. Two Christmas sessions in the Burton Hall to kick off the 2002 season went well, but the season ended again in May with the departure of Hornhardt and Klopp. The rest of the core players were still there, and the addition of a new generation of players (K.J. O'Connor, Graeme Orr, Robert Rogers, Jeremy Roberts, Nathan Robson, Jared Currie) plus the permanent addition of Chris Jackins gave Burton just what it needed: new core players to spread the game and players willing to play permanently in goal.
2003 was seen as a make-or-break season for Burton as many wondered whether the magical summer of 2000 was a once-in-a-lifetime occurrence. Despite his prolonged absences from the game, Klopp still longed for hockey to be played, and aided the creation of new enthusiasm by giving Burton its own webpage. Kusch's statistics were now no longer just text files but live and interactive. The professional design of the site the buzz it generated helped kindle a new fire and passion for the Burton game. The season started off in a brand-new locale, with a game in northwest Calgary featuring Hornhardt, Anderson, Lorne Bilinski, Dustin Blair and Dorian Turner. While not successful for a competitive standpoint, it demonstrated how simple it could be for someone to pick up the torch and organize on the fly. It would be Bernie Koth-Kappus who took the ball and ran with it, organizing a massively successful season without many of the originals. The core formed during this season (Oliver Koth-Kappus, the O'Connors, Robson, Jackins, the Orrs) remains the core in Burton to this day. It was this season that Lee Orr emerged as the top scorer in the league, and Robson immediately became the most prized goaltender. Laird Bilinski was a threat both in and out of the net. Occasional visits by Rogers were both anticipated and feared by opponents as the Fauquier Arena saw Burton Hockey played under the lights for the time. The originals returned occasionally for so-called 'SuperSessions' that turned into massive celebrations and parties. The tradition continued in 2004 with new stalwarts such as Dallas Sinclair and Kyle Grenier. The rebirth was symbolized by Karl Detta's successful efforts to repave the McCormack rink and enhance the quality of play.
A New League, A New Era
2005 saw ruminations of Burton Hockey expatriates forming a new league to try and recreate the old community feeling in a new setting: Greater Vancouver. Lee Orr, Seamus O'Connor, Justin Gordon and Oliver Koth-Kappus had taken over as the guardians of Burton, and had even given the league a new name: Burton United Socialist Hockey. Most of the originals were gone, but they missed the game, and so they did something about it. As O'Connor and Sinclair battled for the scoring title on the east side of the Monashee Pass, Klopp, Hornhardt, Lorne Bilinski, Bernie Koth-Kappus and Tony Sivilay realized a dream by successfully transplanting the Burton game to Vancouver. Under the simple moniker of Vancouver Roller Hockey, the companion league stuggled initially to get off of its feet as it searched for a venue. After experimenting with sessions at various locales, Ambleside Park in West Vancouver became the permanent home of VRH. Smaller than the McCormack rink in Burton, the games here were paced differently but retained the same spirit and energy.
2006 saw the continual evolution of Burton Hockey. The members of both league are entering their athletic prime and the quality of play is higher than ever. The game has seen the return of old asphalt heroes like Andrew Watson, the arrival of young guns like Mitchell Detta, and the addition of new Vancouver talent like Bron Mach, Jason Leung and Andrew George. Games are now even being covered in local newspapers, marking the completion of the game's transition from pickup league to serious competition. All of the original scoring records from 2000 have been smashed. The game is no longer teetering on the edge; rather, Burton Hockey is the strongest it as ever been, and the people it has brought together intend to keep it that way.