Ask any hockey fan to name a player on the 2010 Stanley Cup champion Chicago Blackhawks and young stars Patrick Kane and Jonathan Toews will immediately come to mind. Ask a diehard Blackhawks fan to name his or her favorite player and Adam Burish will likely be near the top of the list.
In only his third season in the Windy City, Burish has already won the hearts of Chicago fans with his boundless energy and blue-collar work ethic. The Amateur Hockey Association of Illinois named Burish their Man of the Year after his rookie campaign.
The 27-year-old Madison, Wis., native revels in his role as an “energy guy,” a fire-starter who ignites his teammates and the fans with his wide-open throttle style of play.
“He’s a competitive guy and you get a spark from him, be it watching him play or his enthusiasm,” Chicago Head Coach Joel Quenneville said of Burish. “[He’s] well liked by his teammates and one of those guys you like being on your side.”
Oftentimes his boundless energy lands Burish in the penalty box. A self-described “in-your-face pest” on the ice, Burish has become a master of confrontation during the game, using that annoying skill to throw opponents off their game.
“I love confrontation. When the game is all said and done I hope players still have respect for me,” said Burish, who is not afraid to throw his 6-foot-0, 190-pound frame around.
“But I want them to say, ‘Man, I hated playing against that guy. … He’s a pest. … To me that’s a compliment.”
The ultimate compliment for the 282nd overall pick in the 2002 NHL Entry Draft is that the Blackhawks have come to rely on Burish in critical situations where one mistake can lead to the puck in the back of the net.
Call it professional development for a player who made a name for himself with his offensive abilities with the Green Bay Gamblers of the United States Hockey League. From there it was on to the University of Wisconsin, where Burish fulfilled a lifelong dream by captaining the Badgers to the 2006 NCAA National Championship, setting up both goals in a 2-1 victory over Boston College.
“In college, I was out there on the power play. I was starting every game, and in the NHL you don’t have that,” said Burish, who refined his game during his four years in Madison. “And that’s fine with me. I love the role I have.
“I’ve become more of an energy kind of guy. More of a guy that can be dependable every night – you know what you’re going to get out of me every night.”
In 2008, Burish got the opportunity to bring his contagious personality to Team USA. For the first time in his career, Burish got the chance to fight on the same side as many of his NHL opponents for the IIHF World Championship.
“It was really special for me. I’d never had the chance to play for Team USA before,” Burish said. “It was so neat to be recognized as one of the few players selected to play for your country. And you always hear about how it’s special the first time you get to play for your country, and it really is.”
True to form, Burish earned three assists and racked up 27 penalty minutes during Team USA’s seven appearances. The following year, Burish and the Blackhawks made a run for the Stanley Cup, making it all the way to the semifinals before being ousted by Detroit.
When the 2009-10 season officially began, the Chicago forward was nowhere to be found. Burish was injured in a preseason scrimmage against Minnesota, tearing the ACL in his right knee. It was the second major knee injury of his career.
In 2001, Burish was thrown 40 feet from a car in an accident that nearly demolished his left knee. Compared to a year of rehab and learning how to walk again, five months out of the action was nothing.
“For those five months the hardest part, just mentally, you don’t feel a part of it when you’re not playing … and the guys are gone for two weeks on a road trip and you’re just sitting in Chicago by yourself,” Burish said.
His return to the Blackhawks lineup in mid-March brought an added spark at a time when the long season began to take its toll on some of his teammates.
Burish’s teammate Patrick Kane was eager to see how he would celebrate his first shift back on the ice.
“That’s the biggest thing with him, his energy,” said the hero of the Blackhawks’ Cup clincher. “So when he came back after his long knee surgery, it was kind of funny just to watch him out there, just to see what to expect from him his first game back.
“We knew he was going to be fine, and I think he had an assist and a fight his first shift, so he was pretty ready for that game.”
Cracking the talent laden lineup, Burish played in 15 of the Blackhawks 22 playoff games, bringing his patented spark to the team’s drive toward the Stanley Cup.
“When you win a championship … you have an immediate connection with those guys that you won with for the rest of your life,” said Burish, who added his name to the Cup in addition to his NCAA Championship ring.
“There’s nothing more special than that.”