CLINTON — From the Clinton Arena to Utica College to the big ice of the ECHL, 24-year-old Clinton native, Gregg Burmaster is about to fulfill a life-long dream.
Burmaster grew up in Clinton, attending Clinton Central Schools and playing youth hockey at the Clinton Arena during his fifth grade year. Later, when he aged out he chose to play travel hockey within the Syracuse junior hockey organization.
“They were called the Syracuse Stars back then,” Burmaster said. “But I think they have since changed their name to the Syracuse Nationals.”
Burmaster said he went on to play at the Kimball-Union prep school in Meridian, New Hampshire, during his junior and senior years.
After high school he played with the Middlesex Islanders in Massachusetts and later with a juniors team affiliated with the Philadelphia Flyers.
His freshman and sophomore year at Division I Colorado College was a good opportunity he admits, but it turned out not to be the place for him.
“I just got the feeling I wasn’t being utilized to my fullest ability,” Burmaster said. “I’m not saying anything negative about Colorado...it just turned out not to be the place for me.”
In 2017, Burmaster found his place at Division III Utica College, with it’s winning culture and exceptional coaching staff.
“Transferring to another another D-1 school had it’s problems too,” Burmaster explained.” When you transfer- you have to sit out a whole year. Truthfully, I just wanted to play. My dad used to take me to UC hockey games when I was a kid so I was very aware of who they were.”
He’s also said in the past,
“We have great local talent at Utica College, it helps to pull crowds in. The Utica Aud is known far and wide as a loud house. No matter where you played before, nothing really compares to our home arena. And, also, I just wanted to be on a team I felt best suited my future career.”
So Burmaster became a Pioneer and team head coach, Gary Heenan said he couldn’t have been happier to have him join the team.
“We were lucky to grab him halfway through his [college] career,” Heenan said. “He is a smart player, with a skill set I believe will bring him success. He lives in the weight room, and in the classroom, he achieves an 4.0 grade-point-average. He’s really just a clean-cut, All American kid. He’s the kid of guy you want to see your daughter dating.”
As a Pioneer, Burmaster scored 10 goals and registered 16 assists in his junior season and helped his team advance to, and win the United Collegiate Hockey Conference Tournament title. He was named MVP of the tournament. The team tied their most program wins in a season with 21. He was named team captain in his senior season and earned first-team all-conference recognition. He led the league in overall point scoring with 1.52 points per game, he played in all 29 games and led the team in goals with 20. He achieved a team high 26 assists, 46 points and posted a plus-23 rating that season, according to the Utica College Sports Information Department web page.
After graduation, Burmaster said he was lucky enough to be asked to join the Fort Wayne Komets from Indiana. And while he admits it was a bit awkward to join a successful team towards the end of the season, which he was, the experience taught him a lot about himself.
“I learned I could play at this level,” he admitted. “I mean it was tough for them I think. The team had been together all season long and they were doing well, it’s hard to take on a ‘new guy’ in a situation like that. I’m not really sure they knew where to put me.”
But Burmaster said he got enough ice time to fully realize he could play at that level. First coming out of college he was curious himself if he had the skill.
The following year, right around draft time, he knew that both ECHL teams, the Norfolk Admirals and the Tulsa Oilers wanted him.
“I got lucky, I wanted to play in Norfolk, I suppose. But then something happened that totally convince me. A teammate’s of mine, Reagan Cavanaugh at UC had his father, Peter came to the Aud to see us play. As it turns, he saw me play and when he found himself in a position with Admirals where he could make some decisions, he asked his scouts to take a look at me...they did.”
Burmaster said he’s been waiting for the opportunity to play professional hockey ever since he first laced up his skates at the Clinton Arena.
“I’m really excited to get a chance to play at this level,” he said. “I’m looking to make a difference with this new opportunity. I want to go somewhere and build a culture, a culture a lot like the one at Utica College. The culture that says we are going to win, or we are going to die. Additionally, I want to show people that I can play this game...Yes, I guess I feel I have something to prove.”