May 22, 2012
Marty Burke: Classic Defender
Marty Burke very likely will never be in the Hockey Hall of Fame, because he focused strictly on playing defense. That's how it was, mostly, in the 1930s. Defenders like Burke just stayed back while the forwards strutted their stuff on offense. It was Burke's job to shut down such flashy attempts by the other team, usually in emphatic physical fashion.
Burke started his career with the Montreal Canadiens, but after just 11 games he was loaned to struggling Pittsburgh in the 1927-28 season. Burke and goaler Roy Worters were instrumental in leading the Pirates into the playoffs.
Burke returned to the Montreal the following season. He helped the great puck stopper George Hainsworth win the Vezina Trophy with 22 shutouts and an incredible 0.98 goals against average, but greater joy was upcoming. He and Sylvio Mantha anchored the Canadiens blueline as the Habs won two consecutive Stanley Cups. The Canadiens were nicknamed the "Little men of Steel" those two years, and Burke was just that.
He even played well in 1931-32, and the Habs looked as though they might win their third straight Cup, but injuries prevented the feat.
After a forgettable 1932-33 season both Burke and the Canadiens returned to form in 1933-34. Burke helped new goalie Lorne Chabot lead the Canadian Division in fewest goals given up, and finishing third in the Vezina race.
Burke was involved in a big trade after 1933-34 as he, Howie Morenz and Lorne Chabot went to the Chicago Blackhawks. Burke helped Chabot win the Vezina Trophy and helped Chicago finished second overall.
Frequent mention of his fine defensive support for Chabot finally got Burke some recognition. He was as effective the following year in front of rookie goaler Mike Karakas.
Burke began to slow down in 1936-37 and the Blackhawks plummeted to the cellar, and during the 1937-38 season, he was traded back to the Montreal Canadiens. But Burke's best days were behind him. He retired at season's end.
In 494 career NHL games, Marty Burke scored just 19 goals and 66 points. But he was a solid defensive defenseman who was a nice part of two Stanley Cup championships.
Now that you know who Marty Burke is, perhaps you will be interested to know the Burke family has made several memorabilia items available in the latest Classic Auctions offering. Items include a fantastic personal scrapbook, an old Calgary Stampeders leather jacket, many photos and a haunting letter written by Howie Morenz from his death bed.
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