In what feels like the final chapter in the now completed book of the Oklahoma City Blazers, the announcement today from the Central Hockey League is a big one for old hockey fans in the city. The CHL released its first three inductees into its newly formed Hall of Fame. Rick Kozuback, who in 2001, was the key in the joining of the WPHL and the CHL into one league, keeping the Central Hockey League moniker. Brad Treliving, who took over as President of the said newly formed CHL, helping push the league to take attendance records for minor league hockey in general.
The most important inductee, to most hockey fans, is the player given the honors. This inaugural year of the Hall of Fame should make any and all hockey lovers in Oklahoma proud. Hands down the best player in the CHL, Smokin’ Joe Burton receives the honor due to him.
After 11 years with the Oklahoma City Blazers, his records are many, his demeanor humble as always. The last we heard of Joe, he was helping manage a rink near his hometown in Michigan.
“When I heard about this honor, I was honestly speechless,” said Burton
Burton holds the claims to the all-time points leader in CHL history, with 985 points, and has the most goals scored by a player at 565 goals, all within 708 games. Joe had seven straight, 40-goal seasons and had 41 career hat tricks. In 2001, when the Oklahoma City Blazers won the CHL Championship Ray Miron Cup. Burton would end that season with a Cup after tallying 110 points during the regular season and 11 more in 13 post-season games. It’s pretty obvious why the CHL’s annual scoring championship bears his name, the ‘Joe Burton Award’. Burton holds a total of 19 CHL records.
Joe Burton came to a newly formed OKC Blazers team, in the newly formed CHL in 1992, and came blasting out of the gates scoring 35 goals in 55 games. He would help his team win two Championships, the first in 1996, later in 2001. Joe would hang up the skates in 2003, ending his final season by finishing second in goals, 46, and fifth in points, 84. He would score his 41st and last career Hat Trick in a 3-1 win at Bossier-Shreveport. His last act of hanging his #19 jersey upon entering retirement would not happen however, becoming an officially retired number and hung from the rafters years previous.
Oklahoma City hockey fans, even those residents who never went to a game, know Joe’s name. He is another icon of Oklahoma sports, despite not being born in the state. In some ways, he’s the last of a dying breed in the new sport world. Players just don’t quite start their careers at teams, and stay there their entire career. The last few, like Joe Sakic of the Colorado Avalanche, are now retired or ready to enter their retirement. Oklahoma City may not have another career player with the AHL Barons now in place, but it is a sign of the times. Fans must adjust to a new way of business in the sports world, not just hockey.
As long as we remember and honor the greats, of yester-year and those to be, the ones that loved your city and a city that reciprocated, everyone comes out ahead in this game.
Congrats Smokin’ Joe! It was always a pleasure watching you play.