Aug 7, 2018

COjPPNDUAAAt9oT.jpg(August 7, 2018)… The Rochester Knighthawks announced the signing of forward Mike Burke to a two-year deal. The 28-year-old adds immediate offensive production to the right side of the offense. 

“Mike Burke is due for a breakout season,” said Knighthawks Owner and General Manager Curt Styres. “This is the year for him to show the rest of the world why we signed him.”

The deal comes at a time when Burke is playing some of the best lacrosse of his career. This summer, he posted incredible numbers with the Brampton Excelsiors. Not only did the Excels’ team captain lead Major Series Lacrosse with 51 assists, but he was tied for the points lead with 68. After notching career highs in both offensive categories, the 6-foot-1, 195-pound forward is headed back the NLL for the first time in two years.

“It feels great. The Knighthawks are a first-class organization,” he said. “I am excited to be a part of their future and earn a spot on the team.” 

Burke played three seasons in the NLL, posting 15 goals and 20 assists in 22 games. He spent his last two years with the Colorado Mammoth, where he collected 34 points from 2015-16. As a rookie, he appeared in two games with the Edmonton Rush and scored one goal during the 2013 campaign. The Rush selected the Brampton, Ontario native in the third round (28th overall) of the 2012 National Lacrosse League Entry Draft. 

But unlike his previous stints in the NLL, the Knighthawks are not asking the veteran forward to adjust his game and play a different role. Knighthawks head coach Mike Hasen assured Burke that he would be able to showcase his strengths when he is on the floor. 

“I am going to continuously move my feet off ball, take a shot when it’s open but also be able to pass the ball (when needed),” he said. “This is an opportunity where they are expecting me to play the game that suits me best and I am looking forward to that.”

A product of the Brampton lacrosse system, Mike followed in the footsteps of his father, Bob, and grandfather, Michael. It was only natural for Mike to pick up a stick as he had a Canadian Hall of Fame dad playing catch with him throughout his childhood. 

“My dad was quite the player up here, so I didn’t really have a choice,” Mike said jokingly.

After a standout career with the Junior Excelsiors, which included top scoring honors in 2011, Mike graduated to the Senior “A” club. It was with the Major Series Lacrosse team that Burke displayed his playmaking and scoring ability. In parts of eight seasons with the Excelsiors, Burke has registered 108 goals and 248 assists in 104 games. With such impressive numbers, combined with his pro experience, he became an attractive candidate to fill the void left by the departure of Josh Currier in the NLL Expansion Draft. 

“His game has gotten consistently better,” said Hasen. “He can shoot the ball but also does a good job moving the ball. He has always been a good passer, as well as finding those open guys. That is the type of guys that we like, and we need to fill a void (on the right side).

“Mike is a proven scorer in the summer,” said Knighthawks head scout Stuart Brown. “At 28, I think Mike is ready to take the next step and be a good player in the NLL. We have an opportunity for Mike to come in and compete for a spot on the right side of our offense.”

Since last playing with the Mammoth, Burke has been waiting for another shot at the NLL. To improve his game, he spent his summers playing pro ball in Canada. From 2014-15, Burke played for the Southwest Cyclops in the Canadian Lacrosse League (CLax). In 2014, he was voted the league’s Rookie of the Year and a First Team All-Star as he finished third in scoring. The following year, he notched 24 points (8+16) in six games.

In 2017, Burke moved on to play in the Arena Lacrosse League (ALL) and suited up for the Paris RiverWolves. In his first season, he posted 13 goals and 44 assists in eight games. In 2018, he notched 63 points, which included 25 goals in 10 regular season games. The RiverWolves’ captain added 22 points in three playoff games as Paris advanced to the ALL Cup Finals.         

“I continued to play in the summer and winter with my focus being to get back to that level,” said Burke. “I feel like I could have a breakout season given the right opportunity. That’s why I continued to stick with it for a chance like this. 

“I gained a ton of experience being a part of teams for four years, and I feel like my game has grown tremendously. I am looking forward to building on that and making this work really well in Rochester."

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