“If he wanted to be a figure skater, I would go along with it.”


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DAN BURKE

Position:

Building administrator, Department of Chemistry

Length of service:

28 years, starting part time in parking at age 17

Other stuff:

The 44-year-old Washington Township, N.J., father of four spends his weekends chauffeuring his children to soccer, Girl Scouts and more.


Photo by Candace diCarlo

Dan Burke has a huge gold medal on a red, white and blue ribbon set atop a cabinet in his office. On his office wall, hes got a smaller gold medal, a silver medal and a bronze from past victories.

Why he has them has to do with his philosophy of child-rearing. He doesnt say it in so many words, but it doesnt take long to get the gist of it. Your kids want to do something, you encourage them. And you keep them busy.

That philosophy is what brought Dan Burke to roller hockey and to helping coach a nationally ranked, age-16-and-under team that just won that big gold medal at the Amateur Athletic Unions national Junior Olympics. Burkes team of local kids defeated, against all odds, a nationally drawn team organized by Bauer skate company.

Q. How long have you been at Penn?
A.
Twenty-eight years. I started across the street [indicates the HUP lot] at Parking. I was 17 years old.

Q. Was that a full-time job?
A.
Part time to begin with. And I made full time and then I stayed there for a few years, and I moved over to mail service and started to do my college at night time. Then I moved over to the filter crew over at Physical Plant. And then from the filter crew, I got an apprenticeship in Air Conditioning and Refrigeration. I had to go to school four years at night for that. So its like four years at night at Wharton, four years at night school for that.

After that I became a mechanic, and I was a mechanic for approximately 10 years. The opportunity came up here two years ago.

Q. How did you become a hockey coach?
A.
I have a son who started playing when he was 4 years old. Hell be 11 next month. I got pretty involved with him down at Rizzo Rink down at Front and Washington Avenue. He played ice hockey there as well as roller hockey. I got involved in coaching there. From there we moved on to the Philadelphia Rolling Thunder. My son had some outstanding years. He played in a league up in Sports Super Center. He was 6 years old in a [division for] 10 year olds. He scored 57 goals in the same game. That type of hockey wasnt fair to the children that were involved with in-house leagues.

We had to join some type of travel organization with his talent.

So we joined the Philadelphia Flames.

Q. What is the Philadelphia Flames?
A.
Its an in-line hockey tournament team organization. Our goal is a national championship. Its not about winning or losing. We win as a team, we lose as a team. If we go down [to the next championship and] we lose every game, play your heart out. Thats all were asking.

Q. Did your team play their hearts out?
A.
Yeah, they did.

Q. Do your other kids play too?
A.
No. I have a 21-year-old boy, and I have a 14-year-old girl in high school. And I have twins that are 10.

Q. And Jonathan is one of the twins?
A.
Yes.

Q. Theyre not identical?
A.
No, a boy and girl.

Q. Is Jonathan the only athlete?
A.
The girls are involved in volleyball, Girl Scouts, gymnastics, modeling. We try to keep them busy. Theres a lot of shuttling going on.

Saturdays can be hectic.

You might have a 7 a.m. hockey game, and from there, if my wife is working on Saturday, take [Jonathan] home, pick up my daughter for modeling, shes on the Teen Modeling Board at the Echelon Mall I might have to drop her off for rehearsalthen take my other daughter and drop her off at Girl Scouts, wait until Girl Scouts are over, pick her up from Girl Scouts, pick the other one up, then drop my son off at soccer.

Q. You became a coach with the Philadelphia Flames?
A.
Right now I am the assistant coach for the 12 year old and the 16 year old, vice president [of the organization] and assistant coach.

Q. So these kids are skating on in-line skates. Do they also ice skate?
A.
Every kid in the organization, Im pretty sure plays ice hockey.

Q. Do these kids have aspirations to be professional hockey players?
A.
I think a lot of them do. We dont put that out as a dream. Or, even with my child, hes someone who wants to compete. And you can tell by the aggressiveness that some of these kids have, that they can [go professional].

When you play for a travel team youre not a beginner. Theyve played organized hockey before. What we try to do is take that and put it into our system.

Q. Are there groups like the Philadelphia Flames all over the country?
A.
Yes. Some are sponsored nationally like the team we won against in the Junior Olympics. It was fully sponsored by the Bauer skate company. They are Team Bauer. They havent lost in three years. And we defeated them twice in the Junior Olympics.

Q. So if your son said to you, I want to be a hockey player, what would you say?
A.
Yes. If he wanted to be a figure skater, I would go along with it.

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Originally published on October 11, 2001