Banners on the Wall is a series consisting of interviews with former Idaho Steelheads skaters Scott Burt, Marty Flichel, Jeremy Mylymok, and Cal Ingraham – the only players to have their numbers retired by the Idaho Steelheads. The interviews will be published in reverse chronological order from when each player had his jersey retired.
Burt had his #12 retired on February 3, 2018, after playing seven seasons in Idaho (three in the WCHL and four in the ECHL), helping lead the team to Kelly Cup Championships in 2004 and 2007. Burt is currently an assistant coach for the Spokane Chiefs of the Western Hockey League (WHL), finishing his fifth season behind the bench this past year.
The Sin Bin: What do your specific duties consist of as an assistant coach, both during the season and in the offseason?
Scott Burt: Right now, I’m actually going to be taking a little bit of a break – I’m going to head to Alaska in July and spend three weeks up there. Since the end of the season, (the coaching staff) has still been rolling, going to the rink every day and just going over video. During the season, I have eight guys that I run: I run the defense of the team, I do the penalty kill, and a lot of defensive play. We do scouting, pre-scouting…a lot of that has to do with Head Coach Dan Lambert and myself. We have gone through a lot of video in the summer, and it’s only going to be good for us, with our players coming in and (seeing) our structure, the way we want to play.
Like I said, I run the defense…but as an assistant coach, you have to make sure you do all the travel, itineraries, hotel bookings, meals, overseeing the school with an education director, and then work with the billet coordinator as well. You’re not just there to coach; there’s lots of other stuff that you have to oversee. You have to have the trust of your head coach, your general manager, and your staff that you can get the job done. It’s only going to help me as a coach in my years coming up.
TSB: Spokane had two players drafted in the NHL Draft this past week and two first round picks the past two years in Ty Smith (New Jersey, 2018) and Kailer Yamamoto (Edmonton, 2017). What’s the key to success in the development of your players at the WHL level?
SB: Well, our scouts bring in the players, and we get the opportunity to form and mold them. But, a lot of those guys like Ty and Kailer have that skill set already — we just tweak it and show these guys how to be a pro, what a pro is and how it’s going to be when you get to the next level. That’s what we do. We have a lot of guys that maybe didn’t get drafted, but within the next year or two are going to be great players. That’s just a kudos to our organization, the past players, and the Spokane Chiefs way. Just them wanting to be players and wanting to join our program and just doing it the right way.
I always say, the WHL is the mini-NHL in the way it’s run: the way the video is, the way teaching is, the way we have a scouting staff. It’s not like the ECHL, whereas a coach, you’re the head of operations of everything and you have your hand in everything. We have 20 to 24 players that are put in our dressing room, and we have to mold them as a team.
Now, we could say, “We like this guy, this guy…this is the type of players and team we’re going to have,” but we have to mold these guys and teach them to play the right way as we believe. When they do that, they have success. Now, teams have followed us in NHL this past year because we’ve had these kids (like Smith and Yamamoto), and we’re only going to get a few more kids within the next few years that are going to be high picks as well. It’s good for us coaches, and we enjoy and embrace the role of doing that.
TSB: How does the hockey community in Spokane differ from Boise?
SB: To be honest, it’s similar. It really is. I heard nothing but good things about the crowds this past year. In Spokane, we have a bigger rink; we average 6,500 people a game. And when we play our rival, Tri-City, on a Saturday it’s 10,000 or 10,500, It’s wild and crazy…we do our buck-a-beer, buck-a-hot dog…it’s nuts. They’ve embraced it. The Spokane Chiefs have won two Memorial Cups in the past, and they’re looking for a third. Hopefully, we can be a part of that. But, both cities, they are pretty much similar.
TSB: You have deep roots in the WHL, playing for four years amongst four different teams. Your first year and a half in the league, starting in 1994, was spent with the Seattle Thunderbirds. With the NHL on the horizon for Seattle in 2020, how much has the state of hockey changed in Washington since you first played there?
SB: Well, A) It’s grown a ton. B) When I was in the Western League, we started out downtown in the Mercer Street Arena in Seattle, which is no longer around. We also played in the old Boone Street Barn [Spokane Coliseum] here in Spokane…and that’s no longer around. We now have a state-of-the-art arena here in Spokane that continues to have improvements. It’s unbelievable; it looks like it was just built last year. Then we played in the Tacoma Dome, but there’s no more Tacoma team; they moved to Kelowna to an old rink and now THEY have a new rink. It’s changed quite a bit, the structure and whatnot.
But through Seattle, Portland, and Spokane, hockey’s grown a ton, and it’s only going to continue to grow. You add Everett to the other side of Seattle who plays now, and you’ve got the (Thunderbirds) playing now in Kent…there’s a lot of hockey going on. There’s a lot of hockey out in our area here: in Coeur d’Alene, they’ve got a hockey academy. The sport’s growing…it’s a fast and fun sport…and once the NHL joins Seattle, it’s just going to take off. You see a lot of people coming from Spokane to go watch the Mariners and the Seahawks; you’re going to see a lot of people going over to watch the Seattle hockey team, for sure.
My old coach for the Edmonton Ice, Ryan McGill, is on the bench there in Vegas…look at what they did. They are coming this way because they are trying to brand their name in this area. Well, when Seattle comes, you know Seattle is going to try and brand their name. I think it’s going to be a good rivalry there, and obviously, you’ve got Vancouver up the way. It’s going to be a good time the next few years in this area.
TSB: When you came to get your jersey retired, how long had it been since you’d been back to Boise? How much has it grown since you were here last?
SB: Five years ago, my first year coaching in Spokane, they invited me to come down and drop a puck. It was a weekend playoff game between Idaho and Alaska…that was pretty special dropping the puck with both teams I’d worked with. The growth downtown is awesome; it’s a beautiful city. I have tons of friends there, keep in contact with tons of people. I would really love to come back and coach there…we’ll see what happens down the road. You never know…hockey’s a small world, and things change left and right. I definitely know that, if something ever did open up there, I know I would be all-in. I would see what I’d do to come back. You never know.
TSB: You can see yourself coaching the Steelheads one day?
SB: My first year as a coach up in Alaska, (former Idaho Head Coach) Hardy Sauter moved on, I interviewed for the job there, and when it came down to it, they went with Brad Ralph. Brad’s a heck of a coach. I look back now…was I ready? In my mind, yeah. But was I? No. Sometimes you don’t want to jump into something you’re not ready for. For me, I wanted it really bad, but I also know where I am now with my ability in coaching, who I’ve worked with, what I’ve seen and know…it’s night and day from where it was six years ago. I’ve grown as a coach; every day has something to learn. I’m going to continue to learn and continue to grow as a coach, and as I said, we’ll see what happens.
After a few years of coaching…REALLY coaching…coming to the WHL and working with (former Spokane Head Coach) Don Nachbaur and learning. You look at some of the coaches of this league…they are NHL-experienced coaches. I learned right from the grassroots up. I’m sure I could have learned my way, but even though at the time I thought I was ready, deep down I knew I wasn’t after coaching for a few years. I think I’m getting there.
TSB: With a Seattle franchise poised for the NHL, they will be looking for a 32nd AHL squad to join the fray, as well. Given their success as a franchise, would you give Idaho a promotion to the AHL, or potentially put an American League franchise in Washington state somewhere?
SB: To be honest, I hadn’t really thought of that. I’ve heard rumblings about maybe the WHL in Boise. They’ve had talks there the past few years, but I don’t know where that goes. But, I know the American League is structured way different than the ECHL. The ECHL has a salary cap [$12,800 per team per week in 2017-18], where guys in the AHL can make up to $250,000 a year. It’s going from a guy maybe making $700 a week to a guy who’s making a lot more than that. I don’t know how that would work with the Steelheads. I’ve also heard Tacoma is redoing their rink; the Tacoma Dome is getting a whole new seating plan and all that. It’s still a ways away, but it’s going to come fast.
TSB: You were with Idaho when they made the transition from the WCHL to the ECHL in 2003. What was the style of play like going from a six-team league in the West Coast League to a 31-team league in the East?
SB: It was a little bit different because, at the time in the East Coast League, there were a lot of younger guys. In the West Coast Hockey League, there were a lot of guys that maybe had NHL experience, IHL experience, and it was a league where, when the IHL folded, went to the West Coast League. Obviously, San Diego, Bakersfield, and Long Beach were in the league at the time, so a lot of guys went down there to finish their careers off. It was almost like a glorified IHL. When we joined the East Coast Hockey League, it was a lot of younger guys, the paced picked up a little bit; there was a more run-and-gun style. But the transition was pretty seamless for our team. We had an affiliation with Dallas and Utah at the time. We got some young players mixed with our core group of guys, and we made it work.
TSB: You’ve had seven conference championship appearances — two in WCHL with Idaho, two in ECHL with Idaho, one with Utah, and two with Alaska. How’d you find yourself on so many successful teams at just the right time?
SB: When I went to Idaho, I had played two years prior in Toledo, Ohio where I started, and then Wheeling, WV. I was coming off a shoulder surgery in Wheeling when I got the call from (then-Head Coach) John Olver, and it was basically, “Hey listen, you come down here, we’re going to offer you a tryout.” Now, in the back of my mind, I knew I was going to make the team. But, he didn’t know anything about me, especially since I was coming from the East Coast League in Wheeling, and I was coming off of a shoulder injury. He had no idea who I was.
Thankfully for Jeremy Mylymok, who really had a big say in me staying, because it was between another guy and myself, kind of like, “Hey, we don’t know these two guys…which guy do we want to give a chance?” Olver put the trust in them, and Jeremy said right away, “I have a feeling on Burty,” and it went from there. Again, I’m thankful for Mylymok that I spent that much time there. I really learned from a lot of those guys – Barry Potomski, Matt Martin, Cal Ingraham – some of the older, veteran leaders. Eric Rud – his name hasn’t been mentioned much – he’s now a coach in college. Again, Mylymok came to our squad with a couple of championships, Dan Shermerhorn had a championship, so us young guys had guys around us who had won and knew what it took. It was exciting. For myself to continue on that legacy was pretty awesome.
When I left Idaho right away, Utah called me and said, “Hey listen, this is what we’ve got. We need a guy to come in here and take charge of the dressing room. We’re going to have a young squad; let’s see what we can do.” I knew (then-Head Coach) Jason Christie from playing against him. I said, “You know what? It’s a great opportunity. I still live in Boise and I still have my house there – let’s do it. I want to prove some people wrong.” And we did that. I think I grew as a player and more so as a person, leaving Idaho to prove what I could do.
The next year, going up to Alaska, it was the same thing – got a phone call from (then-Head Coach) Keith McCambridge saying, “Hey, listen Burty. What do you want to do after hockey?” I said, “Well, the way it’s going, I’d like to get into coaching.” He said, “Here’s an opportunity for you. I’m going to bring you up as my player-assistant coach.” I just said, “Wow!” He said, “It was done with me by (former Alaska Head Coach) Davis Payne, and then he moved on. You can learn that transition from being a player to a coach, and go on from there.”
I went up there that first year, and that’s what it was. He put a lot of trust in me to mold the dressing room, get the guys to buy in, and provide leadership. I know they got rid of a few guys — a few veterans — and that they wanted to change the culture and bring in a new guy to do that. He gave me the opportunity, and I just rolled with it and went with it. We, unfortunately, lost in Game 7 (of the 2009 Kelly Cup Finals against South Carolina), but he also gave me the opportunity to bring another guy up there with me that I was pretty familiar with and won with – Lance Galbraith. (McCambridge) put the trust in me to say, “Hey listen, this is a guy we can win with.” The kid was a warrior…I still keep in contact with him to this day, and we’re really close.
So after we lost that tough game seven, I did promise the ownership up there that we would win. I was brought up here to win. Two years later, we won, and then I retired and got into coaching (in Alaska) for two years! That first year, Rob Murray was Coach of the Year, so we had another good team there. The second year, we lost out in the second round. The third year, when I took the job in Spokane, they ended up winning the Kelly Cup. If I had stayed on for another year, I might have had one more as a coach. But, I took the opportunity and the plunge to grow as a coach, and here I am in Spokane.
TSB: You mentioned Lance Galbraith, a definite favorite here in Idaho during the championship years of 2004 and 2007. How’d you get him up to Alaska?
SB: I got him out of Texas [Galbraith was playing for the CHL’s Texas Brahmas in 2008] and got him up there. It was hard to do…I got him into Victoria when (the Aces) were playing that weekend, and it was pretty awesome. I think when we went up (to Alaska) together, it was kind of like the Blues Brothers – everyone hated us at first, and then they really fell in love with us and embraced us.
Lance and I got to do what we wanted to do. There were a few times there that, at the end of a period, if I got into a little scrum, I know there was another guy jumping off the bench. Unfortunately, we were probably suspended a few times in our career…we were kind of known as those two guys. But, Lance was a warrior deep down, he knew how to win. He won in juniors [with the Ottawa 67’s of the OHL], and he brought that grit and toughness for a little guy.
TSB: Did Lance bring anybody to Idaho during his tenure there?
SB: Well, he brought in Zenon Konopka [also played for the 67’s in juniors]. Again, you look at the team we had…we had guys that wanted to win. You look at (the Dallas Stars organization), they gave John Olver the trust to mold these guys into winners, and he really did. (Former Idaho goaltender) Dan Ellis got games in the NHL, Konopka got games there too. It was good for us…the group of guys did whatever it took to win.
TSB: What spurred the decision to go from Idaho to Utah in 2007, then Utah to Alaska in 2008?
SB: Well, right after (Idaho won the Kelly Cup in 2007), a few things happened off-ice…not with me. I was given an “opportunity” to try out for the team. I know I was one of the captains, but they basically said, “You don’t have a spot here. We have this guy and this guy, and you’re kind of on the outs looking in.” I was like, “I’ve been here for seven years, and this is how it’s going to end?” And that’s how it was.
I believed in the back of my mind that, as a player, I didn’t deserve a tryout, especially when I was living there and we had just won a Cup. I did what I needed to do for the organization, for the city, and for myself. Unfortunately, it came down to that, but for me, it worked out. Again, that was what I needed…that extra energy to say, “You know what? I got screwed, and I’m going to prove that it was a mistake.”
And I’ll never forget this, and I forgot to say this during my speech when I got my jersey retired. I scored a goal in Boise (when I was playing for Utah), and (Idaho PA announcer) Britt Talbert did announce, “Idaho Steelheads goal, scored by number twelve, Scott Burt,” and then everybody went silent in the rink. And then it was, “I mean…Utah Grizzlies goal, scored by number twelve, Scott Burt.” And I will never forget that night. I kind of wanted to mention that to Britt, kind of as a little joke…because we’re still tight these days. But, I’ll never forget in that first game back in Idaho…it meant so much to me that I got presented my (Kelly Cup Championship) ring…it felt so good. But, the first two games against Idaho were in Utah, and I was the first star in both games. Both games I had two goals, and that kind of got me roll from then on. I had a good year – probably my best year – that last year in Utah, and then it just paved me to go up to Alaska, where I absolutely loved it up there.
TSB: You mentioned you keep in touch with Jeremy Mylymok and Lance Galbriath from your playing days. Anybody else you keep in touch with from that time in your career?
SB: A lot of the coaches. Whenever guys are coming through Spokane or I make an appearance in Boise. I see Shermerhorn in Calgary, Mylymok I talk to quite a bit…Blair Allison, Rob Hartnell, Cal Ingraham. You know, Blair came to Garth Brooks here when he was touring, and we all had breakfast together with our wives. Whenever I can run into an old player, it’s good to see them. I’ve been to the last two NHL drafts, I’ve ran into Frances Wathier…whenever and whoever’s around, we sit there and we chat. We’re pretty good friends that way. I know I had a pretty good contingent of old players coming back for my retirement, which was awesome. I stayed a night with Ben Keup in North Dakota about a month ago when my family drove from Spokane to Brandon for my grandmother’s 100th birthday, so we came back up through the U.S. side and spent the night with him…got to catch up with him as well. And, I talk with Lance all the time. It might not be every day, every week…but it might be once a month there are guys here and there we run into and catch up with, and it’s just like old times.
I go up to Alaska and see a bunch of buddies up there that I played with and whatnot. I don’t think I was a guy that shied away from anything; I was a pretty happy-go-lucky guy…I think that rubbed off on a few guys. I’m always there for the guys; there were a few guys that have called me late, but the phone’s always open and I think it’s vice versa for any of the guys that we’ve played with. In fact, I just ran into Jeremy Yablonski down in Dallas, too. We run into a lot of guys.
TSB: I know current Steelheads captain Jefferson Dahl has logged over 200 games with Idaho, and I thought it was either going to be you or Darrell Hay who was getting their jersey retired back in February. Those guys in mind, who is the next Steelheads player you’d like to see get their jersey retired?
SB: You’re putting me on the spot here! I think a guy who put his heart and soul into everything…I’m not going to say his name, but you can figure it out…he also came up with me to Alaska, how’s that? We were the Blues Brothers up there, and we became really close. He’s gone through a lot; the last few years he’s been taking care of his mother and father. He knows how much I care for him, and what he did on the ice…he was more of a loose cannon off the ice, but he played hard every single night on the ice. He helped us win two Kelly Cups, and again up in Alaska, we were close to winning the third together. He has a lot of respect from me; I would love to see him up there as well. I don’t know Jefferson Dahl, but to play that amount of games, be a captain…what he does out in the community is pretty special. Darrell is a good guy, a good name…but I think Lance would be pretty special up there.
I know other guys have (worn Lance’s number 71), but I also know that when I left, (Idaho Equipment Manager) Khris Bestel was pretty upset, and he never let anybody wear 12 after I left, which is pretty special. In fact, “Beasty” was one of the guys that got me to Idaho. He had a say with John Olver when my name came up, Beasty’s first year in the East Coast Hockey League was in Toledo, and that was also my first year. So we have that connection there.
TSB: Neat little stat from the 2018 Kelly Cup Finals – Colorado Eagles defenseman Matt Register became just the third player in ECHL history to win three Kelly Cup Championships. The other two? Goaltender Riley Gill and…you! How does it feel to have that stat attached to your name?
SB: It’s one of the ones where you can look back and go, “Wow, I won three Cups!” And with what you and I talked about, I wish I would have won seven! And I wish I would have won six; I was in the Finals six times. But, to win three is pretty special. It’s been exciting for myself and my family; I want to continue to win them. You look at those players deep down…you look at their past and whatnot…they can always say that they’ve won three Cups. Everybody wants a winner on their team, and you can go down in history in the ECHL as a winner. That’s the way I look at it. It’s pretty special.
And, the other thing too, the way I look at it, I might be a little old…I might have played a little too long! (Laughs) It was awesome, I felt good, and I was just lucky that I had some great teammates that I played with. They all became winners, as well. It’s not just me, or those guys…it’s your surrounding cast, your coaches, your management, your trainers, your doctors that keep you going. Again, it’s pretty special to have my name with those guys, be recognized like that, and played long…that’s for sure.
I think I still have a record for the most games played in the ECHL in the playoffs…I think I have a record that way. [Burt does still hold that ECHL record, with 104 playoff games played between Toledo, Idaho, Utah, and Alaska].