Mourners pack church for Burke funeral

Brian Burke and family members leave St. John Evangelist Church in Canton Mass., after the funeral...

Brian Burke and family members leave St. John Evangelist Church in Canton Mass., after the funeral for Brendan Burke. (DAVE ABEL/Toronto Sun)

MIKE ZEISBERGER, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 4:09 PM ET

CANTON, Mass. - Almost 1,000 mourners packed St. John The Evangelist Catholic church Tuesday morning for the funeral of Brendan Burke, son of Maple Leafs general manager Brian Burke.

Well-wishers flew in from across North America to congregate in this New England town to attend the service for Brendan, 21, who died Friday in a traffic accident on the snowy roads of Wayne County, Ind.

The majority of the players on the Leafs roster flew in from Toronto several hours before the service. The players were accompanied by Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment Ltd. officials including Richard Peddie, Larry Tanenbaum, Bob Hunter, Tom Anselmi and Raptors GM Brian Colangelo.

"It was pretty much the players' idea to come," Peddie said. "They very much wanted to."

Every seat was occupied in the church, with mourners who couldn't find a spot to sit lined up two-deep against the walls.

"It shows what Brian means to people and how they want to support him in this time of need," NHL commissioner Gary Bettman said.

The packed house was told that Brendan Burke was a big-hearted kid who could be described by Three Cs - courage, compassion and caring.

Seated at the front of the church, decked out in their red-and-white hockey jerseys, were members of the Miami of Ohio hockey club. Brendan Burke had been the student manager of the university team at the time of the accident.

Former NHLers Mark Messier and Brendan Shanahan attended, as did GMs such as Doug Wilson (San Jose), Darryl Sutter (Calgary), Peter Chiarelli (Boston), Paul Holmgren (Philadelphia), Chuck Fletcher (Minnesota), Glen Sather (Rangers) and Bob Murray (Anaheim).

Perhaps no one made more of an effort to attend than Edmonton Oilers coach Pat Quinn, who flew out from Phoenix after his team's game against the Coyotes Monday night and arrived at the church 30 minutes before the service.

"I wanted to be here to pay my respects," Quinn said.

He wasn't alone.

Mike.Zeisberger@sunmedia.ca


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