WINDSOR – Hayden Burgess, 17, is soaking in his final year of hockey with the Avon View Avalanche.
As a centre and a captain of the team, he plays a key role in their success.
It’s a pivotal moment at the end of his high school career, with a couple of really important games on the horizon, crucial for getting into the provincial championship.
On March 1, the Avalanche were set to play Park View, with the winner of that game automatically heading to the provincials. The loser of that game would go on to play against a city team, with the winner of that match heading to provincials and the losers packing it in for the year.
There was a lot on the line.
During the Feb. 26 game against the Horton Griffins, students and fans rallied and set out to ‘fill the barn.’ The Avalanche managed a 4-1 win in front of a huge crowd.
Burgess said it was great to see all of the support from the community while playing on home ice.
“It felt great. The more people that come out the better, it gives you a bit of an advantage,” he said.
Burgess grew up in Mount Uniacke, moving to Windsor when he was in Grade 7. Currently, he travels back and forth between the two communities.
He’s played a lot of sports outside of hockey, including soccer, softball, and others.
In Grade 10, it was his mission to get on the high school hockey team.
“Hockey is probably my biggest passion. Luckily, I made it in there,” he said.
“Everyone works together. You make the team and then you spend hours upon hours with those guys every day. You form a really strong bond and I think the most important aspect for me is friendship.”
The heritage of hockey in Windsor isn’t lost on Burgess either.
“The history of it definitely plays a big role, we’re the Birthplace of Hockey,” he said. “So if you’re part of the sport here, then you’re automatically part of something big.”
Leadership full circle
“I started off as one of the younger guys and you always look up to the third-year players, the captain,” he said. “To be that guy that others look up to and get some advice from, it’s a pretty cool role. I hope I play it well, I think I do.”
Supporting his teammates off the ice, it turns out, can be just as important as on the ice.
“High school is a pretty emotional time for some people, and a couple of guys go through relationships and stuff when they’re here. One of my buddies got out of a relationship that wasn’t good for him and he needed some support so he crashed on the couch at my place. I was just there for him when I could be,” he said.
“You get to know and to trust your teammates really well. It’s about lunches with them, driving to the games together. Every weekend, even if we’re not playing hockey, we’re pretty much together.”
One of the things Burgess had to get used to in his new position as team captain was to avoid letting his frustration get the better of him.
“When you become the leader you can’t do that, because other people are looking to you as an example, so they’ll get frustrated,” he said. “You’ve always gotta keep that in the back of your head — act how you want others to act.”
But Burgess admits that he’s still known to chirp his opponents a bit.
“I like to get into the heads of the other team,” he said. “That’s also a big role of mine, just getting under their skin.”
Burgess has already been accepted to St. Francis Xavier University, where he’s planning to take human kinetics and then education.
He’s hoping to play for the Bulldogs’ Junior B team.
“It’d be cool to come back here and play against the local team, the Valley Maple Leafs,” he said. “It’d be exciting to see things from the other side a bit.”
A highlight that Burgess said he’ll always remember is winning the Birthplace of Hockey Tournament earlier this year.
“We came out on top and as soon as that last buzzer went we all ran to the goalie and celebrated, lifted the trophy,” he said. “It doesn’t get much better than that.”
Head coach of the team, Mark Tye, says Burgess excels at the game by being an all-around good player.
“He’s embraced the experience and has taken it in since day one,” Tye said. “He loves it here and cares about the team and about the guys.”
“We need to have a leader like that.”
Tye said one thing that’s really impressed him about Burgess is his consistent work ethic.
“He doesn’t just play hockey for fun, it’s a high priority,” he said.
Want to watch Hayden Burgess in action, check out Classified’s 10 Years (Official Video) on Youtube. He plays the teen Classified in the video.