Hockey roots run deep for Hants County's Burbidge family

Maggy Burbidge is in her second year at St. FX and is leading the nation in scoring. (Bryan Kennedy - image credit)
Maggy Burbidge is in her second year at St. FX and is leading the nation in scoring. (Bryan Kennedy - image credit)

To say the Burbidge family of Hants County is committed to hockey would be an understatement.

Maggy Burbidge, 21, plays for the women's hockey team at St. Francis Xavier University while her 17-year-old brother, Cole, is in his rookie season with the Saint John Sea Dogs of the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League.

Maggy Burbidge played boys hockey until she was 12.

As she entered Grade 8, she packed her bags and went to play girls hockey for three years at Rothesay-Netherwood School, near Saint John. From there she spent another year at a prep school near Rochester, N.Y.

"Going away at a young age, there are a lot of challenges that come with that," said Burbidge, who is studying forensic psychology at St. F X.

"But for me I really wanted to grow my hockey game and I wanted to push my academics as far as I could go."

Bryan Kennedy
Bryan Kennedy

Burbidge played her Grade 12 season in Nepean, Ont., in a junior women's league. Her play earned her a full athletic and academic scholarship to Robert Morris University in Pennsylvania.

Playing NCAA hockey was always her dream. In her second year, her team won the College Hockey America conference championship and advanced to the NCAA championship tournament.

But her two years at the school ended on a sour note. The university dropped their men's and women's hockey programs.

"That was very unexpected, especially after we had such a great season," said Burbidge. "We were just hung out to dry and had to find a new place to play hockey."

Burbidge had other offers to play at U.S. schools. But, after seven full seasons away from home, Burbidge had a big decision to make.

Welcomed by St. FX 

She felt the time was right to come back to Nova Scotia. The X-Women were quick to welcome her back.

Now in her second season at St. FX, she is the top scorer in the country and is a good candidate to be picked to play for Canada at the Winter World University Games to be held next month in Lake Placid, N.Y.

Cole Burbidge also left his home in Falmouth at a young age.

Following a breakout season with the U15 Valley Wildcats, where he scored 90 points in 34 games, the 15-year-old went to Charlottetown to play for the Mount Academy Saints.

But only a few games were played because of COVID-19.

He could relate to leaving home at a young age after his sister's experiences.

"She taught me a few things before I went away," said Burbidge, who spoke from a bus while the Sea Dogs were on the road recently.

"It was always a bit sad when she went away when I was younger, but it was always great when she would come back home for the summer."

Unforgettable season

The season after he went to P.E.I., Cole went to Mount St. Charles Academy in Rhode Island. That season was one he'll never forget.

"That might have been my favourite year of hockey," said Burbidge, who will return home at the end of this season to graduate with his friends at Avon View High School in Windsor.

"We had a rink right on campus and we could go on the ice pretty much whenever we wanted and there was a gym in our dorm."

Michael Hawkins
Michael Hawkins

As a QMJHL rookie. Burbidge often plays against older players. He has five goals and 12 points in his first 22 games.

Father played junior A hockey

Jeff Burbidge, Cole and Maggy's father, played junior A hockey in Halifax.

When his kids were playing outside the region, he would watch games on live streams and, when he could, plan a road trip.

He lives in Walton, Hants County. It means a lot of time on the road this year to watch games.

"It's nice to see them play live and I also get the chance to catch up with them after their games because they both have such busy schedules," he said.

It was a big decision to send the kids away to play hockey. It was nine years ago when Maggy left to go to New Brunswick.

"I can remember carrying her out to the ice when she was playing boys hockey because there weren't any girls dressing rooms," he said. "She had to change in what were pretty much broom closets. Things have come a long way since then for girls hockey."

Maggy Burbidge has no regrets from her journey.

"You're going to feel rewarded if you do go away," she said. "Obviously it is a little bit scary, but in the long run it is going to benefit you."