Legends of the Game

In the seventh installment of “Legends of the Game”, an article by Ken Giles on Bob Burke appeared in the Legends Series (volume 2) commemorative program of 2002, just prior to Burke’s induction into the Canadian Lacrosse Hall of Fame later the same year.

Here is the Ken Giles article in it’s entirety…


Fleet-a-foot, fantastic shot, feared opponent – that was Brampton Excelsiors veteran Bob Burke, who will be inducted into the Canadian Lacrosse Hall of Fame on Saturday.

Burke, a two-time winner of the Ontario Lacrosse Association most valuable player award, joins the box- lacrosse division in Canada’s Lacrosse Hall of Fame in New Westminister, B.C.

He played all his lacrosse with the Brampton Excelsiors, including a minor career, which started in 1960 and ended with a midget A Ontario championship triumph in 1971.

Burke was named the Ontario Lacrosse Association most valuable Junior A player in 1976 and repeated as the OLA’s Major series MVP with the Canadian champion Mann Cup winning Excelsiors in 1980.

Always a prolific scorer, Burke totaled 1,509 points during a nine year career with either the junior A or Major Excelsiors. He had 787 points as a junior and 722 as a member of the Major Excelsiors.

During the nine-year span, he accounted for 646 goals, 330 with the junior Excelsiors and 316 with the Major Excelsiors. While appearing in 352 games during that time, Burke accumulated 863 assists, 457 as a junior.

Burke is the all-time Excelsior points leader in junior lacrosse and second to the Excelsiors’ Bram Wilfong, a recent inductee into the Brampton Sports Hall of Fame, in Major lacrosse.

For Burke, this year’s induction into the Canadian Lacrosse Hall of Fame will be a double honour as the CLA is also honouring Canada’s 1978 World field lacrosse championship team which defeated the United States 17-16 in double overtime at the world championships in England.

Burke, and his Excelsior teammate Steve Mastine, were midfielders with the 1978 world champions. Brampton’s John McCauley was an assistant coach with the team, a team managed by Brampton’s Ron Wicks, who is currently director of referees in the National Lacrosse League.

It’s a great honour for “Burkee” and one that is well deserved,” said Stan Cockerton, executive director of the Ontario Lacrosse Association.

“I was a pick-up with the ’76 junior Excelsiors and have remained one of his friends, ” said Cockerton.

It was Cockerton, a six-goal scorer, who also got the overtime winner against the United States in 1978.

Burke also got a goal in that game recalled Cockerton.

“He (Burke) was one of the best shooters I played against and I always feared him and his outside shot. He always had an air of confidance around him and it rubbed off on his teammates and he was a good guy too boot,” said Cockerton.

“I’m certainly honoured and humbled; it’s a great privilege to be recognized along side of the legends of the game,” said Burke, who was inducted into the Ontario Lacrosse Hall of Fame in 1998.

“I’m excited about going to the induction ceremonies, ” he said.

Burke joins Rob Bannister, goalie, and Etic Cowieson, forward, both the New Westminster Salmonbellies, as 2001 inductees into the box-lacrosse section of the CLA’s Hall of Fame.

Burke’s world lacrosse 1978 teammate Mike French will be inducted into field division of the CLA’s Hall of Fame.

Joining the CLA’s veteran division will be Peewee Bradshaw and Frank Madsen of the St. Catharines Athletics. Bradshaw played his lacrosse with both St.Catharines and the Victoria Shamrocks of the Western Lacrosse Association.

In 1952, the Brampton Excelsiors who won their first Canadian junior championship picked up Bradshaw, a junior all-star while with St. Catharines. Bradshaw was also coach of the Victoria Shamrocks who lost to Brampton in the 1958 Canadian Minto Cup junior final.

Cap Bomberry, manager of the Six Nations Chiefs of the OLA’s Major series, has been named to the builders’ section as a 2001 CLA inductee.

“My greatest thrills in lacrosse were playing the Minto Cup final in 1976 when we lost to Victoria, the 1978 world field lacrosse championships and with the 1980 Mann Cup winning Excelsiors,” said Burke.

“The greatest players I played with were Bram Wilfong, Steve Mastine and Gaylord Powless,” said Burke.

Jim Johnston, of Peterborough, Cockerton, of the Oshawa Green Gaels, and Doug Hayes, of New Westminster, were the greatest players Burke played against.

Burke retired following the 1981 season with the Major Excelsiors, but has since coached minor and junior A Excelsior teams. He was assistant coach of the Excelsiors junior A 1994 Canadian Minto Cup finalists, who lost to New Westminster in a seven game final in New Westminster.

Burke has served as a minor lacrosse coach from tyke to peewee in both box and field lacrosse where his son Michael is a third-generation Excelsior.

“It isn’t the championships or individual awards I reflect on most. What I’m most proud of and appreciate more is the tremendous self esteem and confidence I gained from playing this great game and the many, many close friendships I have developed which continue to grow,” Burke said.

“It’s nice for my son Michael and Cheryl, my wife of 26 years, for my first date with Cheryl was to a junior lacrosse game in 1975,” said Burke.

As a side note, Bob’s son Michael has carried on the tradition as a former standout in Hofstra University. Drafted 28th overall in the 2012 NLL entry draft by the Edmonton Rush, Michael finally found a home with the Halifax Thunderbirds (previous year the Rochester Knighthawks). Michael is the present Captain of the Major Excelsiors of the MSL.

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