High School Ice Hockey:
Moving Ceremony Honoring Jeff Burd
Friday, February 20, 2004
By Mike Costantino
SJSports Staff Writer
Last week Cherokee’s junior forward Jeff Burd passed away from meningitis and on Friday night at the Skate Zone in Voorhees, family, friends and well-wishers gathered to pay their respects and say their last goodbyes before Moorestown and the Chiefs took the ice for their playoff game. The standing room only crowd showed how Jeff Burd has touched the lives of many in the ice hockey community. The pre-game ceremony was organized by the South Jersey High School Ice Hockey League (SJHSIHL) and was represented by all of its board members including President Mike Pontonio, Vice President Jack Anderson, Treasurer Mike Stern and Cherokee President Dave Sabol. As he does so often, Mr. Anderson handled the microphone and was elegant in this tribute.
The evening began with the Cherokee Tier II team skating on the ice, many of them friends of Jeff. Next the visiting team was introduced from Moorestown, whom it should be noted were extremely gracious and generous in their schedule changes. Earlier in the week, Moorestown President Ron Schwinn said, “I have had the pleasure of knowing Jeff since he was eight years old and I coached Jeff. He was a very humble quiet boy that never boasted about his accomplishments.” After Jeff’s varsity team took the ice, the 22 other schools that field teams in the league each had a player skate on the ice and show their support by standing behind a Cherokee player.
The players from Cherokee then presented the Burd family with Jeff’s #23 jersey signed by all of his teammates in a glass enclosed frame, which hung on the wall next to the Cherokee bench. The players from Moorestown would then skated over to the Cherokee team and presented each Cherokee member a patch with the initials JB, a very classy and thoughtful gesture. Jeff’s linemates, Louis Sarcone and Patrick McMahon met at center ice where league president Mike Pontonio dropped a puck and Sarcone slid the puck over to the left wing where Jeff would have been waiting for the pass.
It was time to reflect attention on some of Jeff Burd’s personality and that’s when Jack Anderson took the microphone again. “Jeff was a shining star, compassionate, humble, disciplined, dependable, smart and a tireless worker, successful in all he touched.” Standing arm in arm and grieving the loss of a peer, it was hard to fathom that in five minutes these boys, and that is what they are just boys, would be banging and jabbing at each other. Closing the ceremony, Anderson mentioned, “We must keep a clear eye on who and what we are to each other, treat each day as a gift and make the most of it.” Cherokee’s gift tonight was a victory over Moorestown. Jeff Burd’s gift was touching our lives, something his parents should be justly proud, even in this time of grave loss.
Photos by Art Redd