LEWISTON — There has been a lot of tumultuous events regarding Niagara University athletics in recent years, and they are well documented.
But one thing that has not changed, and will not change for at least a little while, is head hockey coach Dave Burkholder’s presence at Niagara.
Purple Eagles Athletic Director Ed McLaughlin announced on Tuesday that Burkholder’s contract has been extended through the 2016-17 season. However, details of the agreement were not available.
“I consider myself to be very lucky to have the job that I have, and get to work with my staff, it is and has been unbelievable to work with,” said Burkholder, who served as an assistant with the Purple Eagles before being named head coach in April, 2001. “To be able to come to work with these guys, I am a lucky guy.”
Burkholder, a former standout Rochester Institute of Technology goaltender, has compiled a 191-165-45 record in his 11 years as head coach, and drove the Purple Eagles to two College Hockey America titles and the subsequent two NCAA appearances. Twice he was named CHA Coach of the Year.
And 12 years later, he is still around.
“It has gone by really fast, and I have made a lot of friends,” Burkholder said. “And, to have a large group of kids who are now grown men with outstanding careers and families, it’s surreal, really.”
The extension, barring unforeseen circumstances, will keep Burkholder at Niagara for five more years after this season. On Tuesday at least, he seemed unlikely to slip into complacency.
“No, not at all,” he said of being content. “Again, I consider myself to be very lucky, and it will motivate me. We have unfinished business as far as winning some championships. Obviously, I am proud of our academic record, and I think it is time for us to get back to the NCAA Tournament.”
Two issues that could have made Burkholder’s situation a little dicey is that McLaughlin, the person who granted the extension, is leaving later this month. Who knows if the future AD might want to bring his own guy in?
“That wasn’t a factor in my situation,” said Burkholder, adding the agreement was reached in early July. “We have been dealing with this for over two months now. At the time, Ed and I had first met on this, and had a handshake deal. It had obviously to satisfy the higher ups.”
NU hockey historians may debate, when and if he ever leaves Niagara, what Burkholder’s greatest legacy will be — all of his victories, or the fact that many Purple Eagles players played professionally over the years.
Or, that 11 former NU players are now collegiate coaches. Or academics.
“Dave continues to run one of the best programs in college hockey across the board, so it is important for Niagara University to keep him behind the bench,” McLaughlin said in a statement. “Every year, Dave puts a good product on the ice, and that success carries over to all aspects of the Niagara Hockey student-athletes’ lives. They live the Catholic and Vincentian mission of the university every day while competing for Atlantic Hockey championships.”