Military Veteran meets ice

Derrick Burnett currently serves as second lieutenant in the United States Air Force, stationed in Cape Canaveral. Burnett works as a range-control officer for the Air Force in Cape Canaveral, but now he’s living his dream of playing professional hockey.

Burnett was apart of the Solar Bears during training camp and even played in Orlando’s two preseason games before being cut by the team on Oct. 10. The Solar Bears made Burnett’s signing official on Nov. 8, and he was able to play his first game on Saturday Nov 10, in a 5-3 win over the Elmira Jackals.

“It’s not often in hockey you have a guy in the military and playing for your team,” said Solar Bears forward Rob Mignardi of Burnett. “It’s definitely special and a cool thing, and you know what, he’s a great guy.”

While at the Air Force Academy, Burnett was a member of the hockey team all four years. He had 35 points his senior year thanks to eight goals and 27 assists, which was good enough for the team lead in assists that season.

Burnett is still an active member of the Air Force, so he will not be traveling with the team for every road trip. However the Air Force lieutenant has planned accordingly.

“I have a lot of vacation days saved up,” said Burnett about joining the team on road trips. “I’m kind of looking to maybe save those for the second half of the season.”

Only being three years into his five year commitment, Burnett has much on his plate for the next few months.  Burnett’s duties in Cape Canaveral include making sure satellites launch from base as planned, and without problems. He says they have anywhere from 15-20 launches a year at the base in Cape Canaveral.

“It doesn’t sound like many,” said Burnett. “But it’s a pretty heavy load because a lot of preparation goes into every launch.”

The Solar Bear have a day off on Monday, but for someone like Burnett who has a full time job outside of hockey, he isn’t always so lucky. However, thanks to Veterans Day, Burnett will get to enjoy a day off from both hockey and work.

“Tomorrow I’m fortunate enough to have a day off from hockey, and a day off from work,” said Burnett after the game. “It’s not often that I get the time away from both.”

Orlando celebrated Military Appreciation Weekend on Nov. 10 and Nov. 11, and wore camouflage jerseys for the special occasion. They also brought out members of Orlando’s Wounded Warrior program to announce the celebratory dropping of the puck.