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New Cedar Rapids RoughRiders forward found out he was traded at a team dinner
A new/old teammate tips off Cole Burtch, who hopes to bring goal scoring to his new hockey club
CEDAR RAPIDS — There have been some great tales over the years regarding sports guys being traded and how those trades went down. That’s in baseball, football, basketball, hockey, you name it.
Cole Burtch’s story is right up there in a what-the-heck sort of way.
The 20-year-old forward from Markham, Ontario, was acquired last week by the Cedar Rapids RoughRiders with defenseman Cole Teleki from the Youngstown Phantoms in a United States Hockey League deal that sent defenseman T.J. Schweighardt east.
Just a straightforward thing, right? Not exactly.
It was forward Nate Hanley of the RoughRiders who tipped off Burtch he was moving. The two played together last season in Youngstown and apparently Hanley had been informed of what had gone down by RoughRiders Coach/General Manager/President Mark Carlson.
“It was weird,” Burtch said. “We were at Buffalo Wild Wings as a team, and Hanley texted me and said ‘Welcome to C.R.’ I was like ‘What?’ My coaches were right beside me, a foot away from me. I’ve known Hanley for a long time, know he’s a jokester and likes to mess around …”
So Burtch didn’t believe him right away. But it was 100-percent true.
Carlson has a hand in everything hockey operations-wise for his club, but Youngstown has a President of Hockey Operations (former longtime NHL player Keith Primeau) and two Co-General Managers/Vice Presidents of Hockey Operations. Its head coach, Brad Patterson, is “just” its head coach.
Therefore, he wasn’t aware of the trade until Hanley broke it to him, Burtch and everyone else at that team dinner. How about that?
“The coaches didn’t even know about the trade. It was the new GM there that made it,” Burtch said. “They were telling me how they just had no idea. So it was kind of unexpected for me, I guess you could say, right?”
The RoughRiders gave up an experienced USHL defenseman but got back a 19-year-old defenseman in Teleki, who isn’t scheduled to leave for Providence College until 2022-23. Burtch is a Western Michigan commit who brings goal scoring to the table for a team that has lacked that in the very early part of the season.
Cedar Rapids went into a pair of weekend home games at ImOn Ice Arena against, ironically, Youngstown with a 1-4 record, having scored a league-low nine times. Burtch had two goals and an assist last weekend in C.R.’s only game, a 6-4 loss to Des Moines, and named the USHL’s Forward of the Week.
Friday night, he had a goal in regulation and the winning shootout goal in a 3-2 victory. The teams played again Saturday night.
“Last year I’d say I had a fairly good year,” Burtch said. “Obviously, I’d like to say I’m a two-way player. But I bring offense, that’s kind of my game. Talking to Coach Carlson coming in, he was hoping I’d bring offense here, and that’s my goal. I look forward to bringing those offensive (traits) to the team.”
Burtch had 20 goals and 38 points last season for Youngstown in 48 games. In 2019-20, he had 26 goals and 62 points in 54 games for the Toronto Lakeshore Patriots of the Ontario Junior Hockey League.
The majority of kids in Canada have designs on playing major junior hockey in their country, whether it be the Ontario Hockey League, Western Hockey League or Quebec Major Junior Hockey League, but that never happened for Burtch. He’s OK with that, OK with taking the college route as a late bloomer.
“I never really had the NCAA route in mind,” he said. “But I didn’t get the opportunity to make it to the OHL, so as you get older and you get to the higher levels, options open up. NCAA is an amazing route to go … Once I kind of got pushed aside by the OHL, I thought I’d pick up my game and try and get that NCAA commitment.
“I’m obviously a smaller kid (5-foot-10, 158 pounds). In my minor midget year, my OHL draft year, I was pretty small, didn’t get a lot of looks, a lot of playing time because there were a lot of skilled hockey players out there. Once I hit junior, I’d say I found my stride and kind of found the offense I needed to in order to keep going.”
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