On a humid afternoon in April, Burgess qualified for the finals at the WPIAL Class AAA South Individual Track & Field Qualifiers in the 100 hurdles.
It is not track that has Burgess close to an opportunity that athletes around the country would pay to receive. Burgess, who plays hockey for Trinity in the PIHL and for the Mon-Valley Thunder in the PAHL, received a roster spot on the Mid-West team at Hockey Night in Boston – a showcase for players who will soon be
eligible for junior hockey.
Burgess, who plays at one of the lower levels of hockey in Class A, was unexpectedly invited a tryout in Ann Arbor, Mich., where he competed against some of the top Class AAA high school talent in the region. After three days competing against bigger players, he received an invitation to the showcase in Boston, which is set for July 13-18.
“It was very hard because it’s a couple of levels higher than I usually play,” Burgess said. “I had to change my game a little bit to skate with those kids because it’s a faster paced game and you are always skating. At a lower level, you can glide at times to take little breaks.”
Like showcases in other sports, Hockey Night in Boston soared in popularity when college and junior hockey scouts began attending the weekend in swarms. 100 college scouts and 52 junior hockey scouts from all levels will be in attendance.
For Burgess, who only began playing hockey five years ago, the tryout was the culmination of a quick rise in the game.
He had yet to reach middle school when a parent of a friend suggested he give hockey a try. Basic classes came first before he joined a developmental team.
Burgess, who is one of very few African Americans to play hockey in the region, got much needed help from a program based at Robert Morris’ complex on Neville Island. Pittsburgh Ice, which was formerly known as Hockey in the Hood, provides socially and economically disadvantaged boys and girls in the Greater Pittsburgh area the opportunity to learn to play the game of ice hockey.
Ice hockey is rapidly increasing in popularity, but the cost of the sport prevents many kids from being able to lace up skates and dedicate themselves to the craft.
“The first time around he fell,” JoJo Burgess, A’Shon’s father, said.” His second time up, he stayed up and he’s been up ever since. He loved it. My wife and I busted our behinds because it is an expensive sport. We fundraise to play the sport. We let our work, work for him. I do any type of fundraiser to let him play for who he plays for. To see him grow and show the skills, he is successful in anything he puts his mind in.”
For JoJo, who works in the steel industry, allowing his son the opportunity to choose hockey over track creates an inevitable sacrifice. Purchasing equipment for a growing teenager is never ending and playing organized hockey comes with a hefty price tag.
With the opportunity in Boston waiting, A’Shon’s father is going to all lengths to get his son on the ice in Boston. The family has set up an internet fundraiser page on GoFundMe.com to help fund his trip.
A’Shon recently won the 15-16 year-old division of the 100 meter hurdles championship in the Three Rivers Association of the USA Track & Field – qualifying for a Region 2 National Qualifier in Atlantic City. .
A’Shon chose Hockey Night in Boston over the track meet.
“I knew he wanted to give it a shot and I’m not going to tell him he can’t do something,” JoJo Burgess said. “I wanted him to go out there and achieve. He got an opportunity. The one thing that was very rewarding to me was he grabbed the opportunity and ran with it. I’m never going to tell my son he can’t do something.”
To donate, simple got to GoFundMe.com and enter A’Shon Burgess in the search line to read his story. JoJo Burgess can be reached by phone at 724-554-5561 or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.