SCHRIEVER AIR FORCE BASE, Colo. --
Capt. Derrick Burnett, National Reconnaissance Office chief of mission operations, as of July 1, is a world-champion gold-medalist for the Team USA in-line hockey league.
This is the third year Burnett, as a defenseman, has competed with the USA’s National in-line hockey team since 2014, and his first year making it past the semifinal game for the world championships.
"Since I'd been on the team, we never played the gold-medal game,” Burnett said. “Getting past that semifinal game this year was probably one of the best moments."
Team USA’s semifinal game against the Czech team trailed 3-1 at halftime. However, in the second half, Burnett was credited with two assists, bolstering the team's efforts to rally back and achieve a 5-4 victory.
"I was the oldest guy on the team this year, at 30," Burnett said. "It's been pushing me this last year, knowing how cool the tournament is and how much of an honor it is to play on the team. I really wanted to win that tournament."
After their intense semifinal victory, Team USA played Finland in the championship game, starting strong with a 4-0 lead, and holding onto the lead for a 4-2 victory, securing their first gold medal in four years.
"At the end of every game, the two teams stand across from each other and they play the winning team's anthem, and the flags are raised," Burnett said. "We played six games and we got to hear our anthem all six times, but that final game was real sweet because you're standing across from the team after you won, with your medals."
Burnett finished championships with a team high of 10 assists throughout all six games, also leading Team USA in penalty minutes with a collective 14.5 minutes for the tournament.
“Derrick is a true leader who is fun to be around, he also is a very tough player who always steps in to help a teammate both on the floor and away from the rink,” said Dan Brennan, USA National Hockey In-line Team general manager. “He is a first class individual who has a very high competitive motor. Needless to say he is a top player on our team.”
Burnett’s past and present coaches, as well as Brennan, credit his success to his discipline, warrior ethos and patriotism.
“Derrick is always his best in the big games, fearless and tough as nails, scored game winner against Michigan in the 2009 NCAA tournament with a separated shoulder,” said Frank Serratore, Burnett’s U.S. Air Force Academy ice hockey coach. “Shoulder was so painfully sore he needed help tightening his skates prior to the game.”
Burnett’s hockey mentors appreciate him for not only representing his country for the sport, but also as a member of the armed forces. In fact, Burnett was the only military member on the in-line team this year.
“All of us have a huge amount of pride playing and coaching for our country, but you can definitely see that it goes one step further for Derrick. His commitment from-college-to-present to be a part of our military is respected by everyone on our team, and you can tell that this is part of a bigger picture for him,” said Joe Cook, USA National Hockey In-line head coach.
Despite being the oldest member on the team this past year, Burnett is looking to the future, and intends to compete again at the next IIHF Championship, scheduled for 2019 in Calgary, Canada.
"Now that we've won it, I don't think I'm done, I think I have one, or two, more chances at (playing), but at least to win it, just once, was just surreal," Burnett said. “This is the pinnacle of in-line hockey."