The only thing that is constant is change.
Words uttered by a Greek philosopher centuries ago continue to ring true today – particularly when it comes to the sports industry.
For that reason, when an individual reaches a tenured milestone and has done it with one team, it comes with great fanfare and admiration. It is only an elite group that reaches a mark of this distinguished nature. Having worked with nearly 200 players, seven head coaches and general managers within the confines of three different configurations of the Canucks dressing room, head athletic trainer Mike Burnstein has become that constant that so rarely is seen in sports.
Tonight’s game marks his 1500th in the NHL reached during his 18th season with the Canucks.
Burnstein got his start in the field working with the OHL’s Hamilton Steelhawks and assisting at the 1987 and 1991 Canada Cups. Through his hard work and relationships, the Canucks organization soon took notice of the young trainer. He spent two seasons with Vancouver’s affiliates, the Hamilton Canucks and Syracuse Crunch, before getting the call for the NHL team.
“The first time I met him was my first training camp in 1997,” says former Canuck Mattias Ohlund, who has become one of Burnstein’s closest friends over the years. “I had just come over from Europe and he was one of the first guys I met with the team. He was very welcoming and looked after us.”
Burnstein's job typically sees him tending to the physical ailments of players, but his reach extends far beyond that.
"Even if I didn't have to go to the medical room for treatment for injuries I would go and see Burnie every morning when I arrived at the rink,” says Ohlund. "He's a great guy to joke and talk with. He's always there for the guys and acted almost as our therapist too."
Through his professional experience and honest and warm demeanor, Burnstein quickly earned a name for himself in the hockey world. So much so that Burnstein was asked to represent Canada at the 1998, 1999 and 2005 World Hockey Championships.
Then, as anticipation grew leading up to the 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver, Burnstein was asked (alongside the Canucks equipment manager Pat O’Neill) by Hockey Canada to serve on the staff for Team Canada. It was a once in a lifetime opportunity getting to not only attend the Olympics, but to do it in the city in which he now calls home. Burnstein and Team Canada made the most of it, finishing on top of the tournament, earning gold. His celebration was not long-lived, having to hop on a flight to Columbus shortly after, landing in the wee hours of the morning, for a Canucks game that night.
In addition to his role with the Canucks and Team Canada, Burnie is also an executive board member of the Professional Hockey Athletic Trainers Society (PHATS).
While Burnstein has received many accolades over the years, and was a part of the 2011 team that made it to the Stanley Cup Final for only the third time in franchise history, it is not always a job filled with glory. Often dealing with difficult injuries and being available at all hours of the day, there can be a lot of scrutiny that one has to face.
"This can be a very complicated business where a lot of pressure is put on the trainers from a number of different people,” said Ohlund. “Burnie is very good at balancing those needs and is there to do his best for you. He would never put a player in a situation where he's not ready to go out."
Burnstein is the consummate professional, always greeting one with a smile and ensuring there is a sense of levity in the room.
“Burnie should be very proud of this accomplishment,” said Ohlund. “Burnie has a big heart and is very honest. He’s very good at what he does and is well liked by everyone around.”
As evidenced by Ohlund’s words Mike Burnstein’s impact is felt not only greatly by the Canucks, but to all who ever worked with him. For his countless hours of hard work and dedication to the team, for his commitment to excellence in all his pursuits, tonight the Canucks honour and herald an unsung hero.
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