In fall 1963, Jerry York walked onto the Boston College freshman hockey team with a heavy heart. His father, Dr. Robert York of Watertown, had died that year.
Freshman coach Bernie Burke, who was an All-America goaltender and captain of BC’s 1949 national championship team, had known York’s father. Dr. York’s patients filled prescriptions with Mr. Burke, who owned a Newton Corner drugstore and coached part time.
“Bernie was a person I could lean on,” recalled Jerry York, who years later became BC’s varsity hockey coach and last season became the all-time winningest college hockey coach in the nation. “He kept me on a level road, and his desire to see his players improve made an impression on all of us.”
At Boston College, Mr. Burke served as the goaltender coach from 1971 to 1993. His uniform has been retired and BC’s Outstanding Freshman Award is named in his honor.
Mr. Burke, who was a member of the Boston College High School and Boston College athletic halls of fame, died of an infection Aug. 13 in Albany Memorial Hospital in New York. He was 88.
York landed his first college coaching job as a graduate assistant to Mr. Burke, who later encouraged Len Ceglarski, a 1949 BC teammate, to give York his first assistant varsity coaching position at Clarkson College. When BC won its first of four national titles under York in 2001, the first congratulatory call he received was from Mr. Burke.
“Bernie was the ultimate Eagle,” said Jim Logue, a former BC goaltender whom Mr. Burke recruited out of Malden Catholic High School in 1957.
“He made an immediate impression on me with his passion as a coach and as a student of the game,” said Logue, who retired this year after 20 seasons as BC’s goaltending coach.
Logue recalled that when he was on BC’s varsity squad as a sophomore, the team made it to the final four. But when the team played a game against the alumni, “Bernie, who had graduated eight years earlier, played the first period against us, shut us out, and made 17 saves. Believe me, after that performance I listened even more closely when he offered his advice.”
An only child, Bernie M. Burke Jr. grew up in Newton, where his father, Bernard Sr., founded the family pharmacy.
After graduating from Boston College High in 1941, Mr. Burke played hockey at BC before enlisting in the Navy during World War II. He served with the Eighth Beach Battalion and then returned to BC, from which he graduated in 1950.
In 1949, Mr. Burke backstopped the Eagles to the NCAA Tournament championship in Colorado Springs, with a 7-3 win over Colorado College in a semifinal and a 4-3 triumph against Dartmouth in the final.
“I’ve been talking with our teammates from 1949 since we got the news, and we all agreed he was a great captain and outstanding goaltender,” said Ceglarski, who was head coach during most of Mr. Burke’s tenure as goaltender coach. “Even toward the end of his coaching career at BC, he would get down on both knees, wearing his old goalie skates and he’d be flipping pucks at our goaltenders.”
Along with other teammates from the 1949 season, Mr. Burke helped found BC’s Pike’s Peak Club, now one of the oldest college hockey booster clubs in the country.
Mr. Burke was selected to the 1950 US national team that won a silver medal at the World Championship. A year later, he began his 20 seasons as freshman coach at BC when the legendary John “Snooks” Kelley was the varsity coach.
Mr. Burke also was a college football official who worked the Harvard-Yale and Army-Navy games and refereed college hockey games.
His son John, who lives in Albany and is head women’s hockey coach at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, said that once when his father was officiating a football game at West Point, “they had to stop the game because some kids were playing in the end zone. My father couldn’t admit that it was his kids who they had to get off the field.”
All four of Mr. Burke’s children worked at the family pharmacy as youngsters.
“We used to kid him that our salary wasn’t great, but that we made it up with the ice cream and candy we ate,” said John, who was a goaltender at Cushing Academy and played for York at Bowling Green State University in Ohio.
“He had a great sense of humor and he was a fun-loving person, but he also was a stickler for us being on time, which meant being five minutes early,” John said. “He also had a work ethic second to none.”
Among Mr. Burke’s memorabilia, he most treasured his 1949 team photo, his Eighth Beach Battalion certificate, and a key to the City of Boston that was presented to each member of the 1949 squad upon their triumphant return from the championship.
In 1961, Mr. Burke married Jacqueline Wallace. Their first date was at a college hockey game that Mr. Burke officiated, and he proposed to her at St. Mary’s Chapel on the BC campus.
The Burkes moved from Newton to Braintree in 1993, and they wintered in Bonita Springs, Fla. After his wife died in 2011, Mr. Burke moved to Albany to a senior living community.
“Dad went to many of my games at RPI, and I would get phone calls the next morning with his thoughts and suggestions,” John said.
In addition to John, Mr. Burke leaves two other sons, Joseph of Braintree and Thomas of Sutton; a daughter, Kristen Grant of Queens, N.Y.; and five grandchildren.
A funeral Mass was said Monday, and burial is in Calvary Cemetery in Waltham.
A few weeks ago, Logue and his former BC teammate George Grant went to Albany, where they visited with Mr. Burke, his son John, and a couple of other friends.
“We all had lunch at a picnic table next to a pond, and Bernie was on his A game, remembering every detail of his BC days,” Logue said. “It was a special day for all of us, and I am so glad I saw him one last time.”