Vernon's Jordan Burns

Vernon's Jordan Burns

Burns commits with Nanooks

Vernon's Jordan Burns commits to the Alaska-Fairbanks Nanooks.

Graeme Corbett

Morning Star Staff

Powell River is the most remote destination in the B.C. Hockey League.

The 10-hour, two-ferry trip to the Sunshine Coast is dreaded by most Interior teams, and as Vernon’s Jordan Burns is learning, it’s not much fun coming the other way either.

Extended trips are something the second-year Powell River Kings’ defenceman will have to get used to now that he has signed to play NCAA Division 1 hockey with the Alaska-Fairbanks Nanooks.

Aside from the Alaska Seawolves, based in Anchorage, the Nanooks’ nearest rival in the Western Collegiate Hockey Association is 4,700 kilometres away (Minnesota State). The Alabama-Huntsville Chargers are the furthest at 6,700 km.

The extra air miles are worth it to Burns, who felt a good vibe when he visited Fairbanks in July.

“The hockey program there is really good,” said Burns, an 18-year-old who led the Kings’ defence with four goals and 22 helpers last season.

“I’ve heard nothing but great things about it. The coaching is top-notch and they have a great history of moving guys on.

“You can tell they want me there. You want to go somewhere you’re wanted, and it’s a place that could set me up for success.”

Committed for the 2015-16 season, Burns will have two seasons to round out his game under the guidance of Powell River head coach Kent Lewis.

A product of the Okanagan Rockets’ Major Midget program, Burns has already shown he can put up points. Now he wants to develop the other facets of his game.

“Last year, I was more about the offence but this year I’m really trying to think about the defence too and become more of a full player. I want to play a bigger role.”

Of Lewis, he added: “In practice, he pushes me to be aggressive on defence and make good choices.

“I just like to make a good first pass, and on the powerplay, make some nice backdoor passes and create chances on net.”

Lewis, whose teams also seem to be among the BCHL’s best defensively, has been impressed with Burns’ dedication to offseason conditioning.

“He’s obviously going to continue to develop, and in two more years, he’ll be an elite defenceman in this league,” said Lewis.

“He’s very deceptive and very smart with the puck. I’m looking for him to start taking control of games.

“Last year, we had a bit of a young corps from a huge turnover the year before and Jordan benefitted from that because he got flung into a lot of icetime.”

With a population of just over 13,000, and with not much in the way of entertainment, Powell River is an ideal hockey town, both in terms of drawing fans and the team itself, said Burns.

“The town’s a lot different than Vernon, but it’s nice here and it’s good because we know each other pretty well because there’s not much to do other than hang out with them.”

After last season’s first-round playoff exit to the Victoria Grizzlies (the Kings blew a 2-1 lead in the best-of-five series), Burns said the team is motivated for a bounce-back year.

He packed on 15 pounds of muscle by working with Sam Mowat, owner of Vernon’s Total Approach Fitness. He came into camp at 6-foot, 190 pounds.

“The guys we have in camp this year, you can tell they want to be here and want to buy into the systems,” said Burns. “It’s looking up for this year. It’s definitely positive.”

Burns, who graduated from Vernon Secondary this summer, plans to study criminal justice in Alaska, with the goal of becoming an RCMP officer.