|Hundreds of people line the streets waiting to get into the packed funeral home during the visitation for Brendan Burke. (QMI Agency/Dave Abel)
CANTON, Mass. — With icy February winds knifing through this picturesque New England town, hundreds of well-wishers braved the elements to say goodbye Monday to Brendan Burke.
From early afternoon until deep into the night, the seemingly endless visitation line snaked its way for more than a block outside the Dockray and Thomas Funeral Home. The congregation of mourners ranged from Brendan’s childhood chums to Detroit Red Wings general manager Ken Holland.
“It started about 1 p.m. and has been like that for more than seven hours. It’s incredible,” one funeral home employee said.
The list of those offering condolences to Maple Leafs general manager Brian Burke and his family over the tragic loss of his son was a who’s who of the hockey world.
Among those attending from the NHL’s New York offices were National Hockey League commissioner Gary Bettman and deputy commissioner Bill Daly. League VPs Colin Campbell and Mike Murphy, who are based in the league’s Toronto bureau, attended as well.
Holland was accompanied by Red Wings players Todd Bertuzzi and Brad May. Both played for the Anaheim Ducks when Burke was the general manager there, a stint that included a Stanley Cup title in 2007.
Other NHL general managers among the mourners were the Boston Bruins’ Peter Chiarelli, Brian Lawton of the Tampa Bay Lightning and Bob Murray, who took over the Ducks GM post when Burke jumped to the Leafs 14 months ago.
Eight days before the opening of the Olympic hockey tournament in Vancouver, Hockey Canada head Bob Nicholson was seen in line, as was former NHLPA head Paul Kelly.
The outpouring of love and support for the Burke family was truly remarkable. And it had some observers predicting the turnout for Tuesday’s funeral mass, which will be held at the 1,000-seat St. John the Evangelist Church in Canton, will be even more overwhelming.
“They could probably hold it at Fenway Park and fill every seat,” one NHL executive said.
Brendan Burke, 21, and Mark Reedy, 18, were killed in a highway fatality in Wayne County, Indiana on Friday when Brendan's SUV was broadsided by a truck.