Bell tolls for Burki

PAUL FRIESEN -- Winnipeg Sun

, Last Updated: 11:16 AM ET

Two words, sent by text message from Winnipegger Codey Burki to his mom early yesterday morning, said it all.

Got cut, the message said, and with that Kim Burki knew she'd have her son home for Christmas.

Not that he wanted to be.

No, 19-year-old Codey would much rather be in Sweden, pulling a Team Canada sweater over his head and playing for a World Junior Hockey Championship gold medal.

The Brandon Wheat Kings centre had a good shot at making the team, too.

He was, after all, the leading scorer in the Western Hockey League as recently as last week, a 6-foot-1, 193-pounder with 21 goals, 50 points, in 33 games.

Yesterday morning, 7 a.m. in Calgary, site of the Team Canada selection camp, Burki's dream was interrupted by the ring of the telephone in his hotel room. The phone call every Team Canada hopeful dreads.

"I thought I was dreaming when I got the call," Burki, at the Winnipeg airport by 1 p.m., told the Sun. "And then I realized I was awake. It's an awful feeling and a disappointing feeling."

Sometimes players aren't sure if the call is for them or their roommate, providing for at least a moment or two of suspense.

But Burki was rooming with Dan Bertram, one of the returning veterans on the team, someone who wasn't going anywhere.

"So I knew it was me," Burki said.

Next comes the lonely walk to the coach's room. By the time you get there, you don't even want to hear the reasons why you've been cut.

"They just said thanks for coming and good try, and that's about it. I just wanted to get out of there. You don't want to stick around and ask."

What it probably came down to, puzzling at this may seem, was the two intra-squad scrimmages. Two glorified practices against potential teammates that can make or break a dream.

"Obviously they don't really care what you've been doing all season," Burki said. "It was down to those two scrimmages, I guess. And I didn't deliver."

What follows is either the latest form of torture or one of hockey's great character tests: the running of the media gauntlet.

You don't get an hour to compose yourself, either. You get the wretched news one minute, then head straight down to the ink-stained wretches of the press the next.

"I wanted to be walking down the stairs and be asked questions about making the team," Burki said.

Then it's the long trip back to your junior team. WestJet's Calgary to Winnipeg leg never felt so long.

"Once it's over with, you gotta move on," Burki, a Colorado draft pick last summer, said. "I'm not going to dwell on it. You can't dwell on it, or else my season's going to go to waste, and I don't want that. I want to continue to have a good season. I'm not going to let this hurt anything."

This isn't the first time a Wheat King who led the WHL in scoring failed to make the national juniors.

And the last to do it may just provide Burki the inspiration he needs to put this behind him.

Two years ago, Winkler's Eric Fehr suffered the same fate, along with teammate Ryan Stone.

Instead of returning to Brandon with a world junior hangover, though, they hung a 3-2 loss on the coach that had just cut them, Brent Sutter and his Red Deer Rebels, scoring five points between them, including Fehr's overtime winner.

Burki, a wide-eyed, 17-year-old Wheat King at the time, was already thinking about that yesterday.

"I remember watching them and they didn't have their heads down in the dressing room," he said. "They didn't let it get them down."

Burki plans a similar rebound.

So maybe by the time he gets home for Christmas, he'll have a new text message to send his mom: Got cut. Got mad. Got over it.


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