By Colin Burrowes
Ripley Wolves head coach Dustin Catto has shared a long history with the team’s assistant coach, Shawn Burrows.
“We played Junior hockey together,” he said. “We were probably friends before that. Our families are good friends. We grew up together. I’m head coach for the Ripley Wolves and Shawn is helping me this year as assistant coach.”
Burrows has been on the bench coaching hockey for about 17 years. He spent a few years coaching Kincardine minor hockey before joining the Bulldogs as an assistant coach of the Jr. C team. He was involved with the Bulldogs for about seven years.
“This year he wanted to try something new and I’ve been with Ripley for the last three or four years, so with no hesitation I brought him on board,” said Catto.“He has a great hockey mind … Most importantly he’s committed. The Burrows name around the area is known for their hockey and giving back to the community.”
Catto and Burrowswould usually drive to games together, but on Nov. 22, Burrows had to come directly from work.
“He was behind me but between some of the players,” he said.“So, I think some of the guys, unfortunately, saw what was going on at the accident but they weren’t aware that it was Shawn.”
Worry set in when Burrows did not arrive at the game. Then, the reality of the situation hit home when Catto’s phone rang.
“His sister called to say what had happened,” said Catto.“He’d been airlifted to Hamilton.”
Catto said he’d be lying if he wasn’t surprised by the success of the GoFundMe campaign.
“It just happened to be me that put it together but it’s certainly not me doing everything,” he said.“He’s got a large group of friends and family as well.”
The goal for the campaign was originally set at $8,000, but it has surpassed $24,000.
“It’s something pretty special and it’s not just this community,” said Catto.“It just goes to speak, not just about Shawn himself, but the Burrows name and how tightly knit the hockey community is.”
On Dec. 21, there is a fundraiser event planned at the Davidson Centre. There will be donation jars, a silent auction table, an open bar until 1 a.m. and Shawn’s cousins, Jeff and Dale, are going to kick the night off with some live music to cap things off.
“Even before the accident, Kincardine Minor Hockey had an event planned – the Ripley Wolves and the Kincardine Bulldogs were all going to be together,” said Dave Patterson, president of the Kincardine Bulldogs.“This will start at 1:30 p.m. with a bantam game, then there is going to be a midget game afterward and then the Ripley Wolves Sr. A hockey team will come on at 5 p.m. and then the last game of the day will be the Kincardine Bulldogs. So, this was kind of a Christmas event to bring everyone together and it was planned prior to the accident but as soon as the accident happened, we all decided to utilize this and rally together to fundraise for Shawn.”
Steve Stepaniak has stepped into the assistant coach position for the time being. Catto has not talked to Shawn too much about getting back to the bench.
“I think he knows the position he’s in,” said Catto. “We certainly know he’ll be around the rink and in communication with the team – they were able to hear him talk last Friday night before the game. He’s been in communication and that, at the very least is driving us because, whether he’s on or off the bench, we’re hopeful he’ll be around soon.”
“I’ve known Shawn close to 20 years now, mainly through hockey,” said Stepaniak. “He’s one of my best friends. We’ve been friends for years through hockey. He stood up for me at my wedding. That’s how close we are. So, to have this happen to one of your friends, it’s tough but he’s one of the toughest guys I know and he’ll get through it.”
Stepaniak said that Burrows is the type of guy who would do anything for his friends and his community and it shows in the way people are coming out to support him now.
“That’s why all of us are trying to come together for him,” he said.“We know he would do it for us. That’s the type of guy he is so I feel we owe it to him and he deserves it.”
He also mentioned that the support provided by these fundraisers goes beyond Burrows himself, to his family.
“It’s been a tough go for them,” said Stepaniak.“They’ve been down in Hamilton for the past few weeks. He’s lucky to have a great support system but that costs money, right? So, we wanted to do everything we can for them.”
Burrows said he has been truly humbled by the support coming out of the community.
“I’ve always known the Town of Kincardine pulls together in times like this and they’ve proved it one more time to me,” he said.
As far as the support from the hockey community goes, he said his relationship with hockey has been lifelong.
“My father, Derrick Burrows, has been involved for over 35 years,” said Burrows.“He’s a big inspiration to me and I just wanted to follow in his footsteps and give back to the community that gave me so much as a kid.”
Burrows said he is getting better every day. He had to undergo surgery for a C6-C7 spinal fracture.
“I’m up and walking with a walker, slowly moving,” he said on Dec. 13. “I’m actually hoping to be released from the hospital today to come home and start my rehabilitation.One hundred per cent my goal is to get back on the ice, giving back to the kids of Kincardine and everyone. I hope to be back on the ice sooner than later coaching, teaching and doing what I love.”