Boyhood Pals Reunited In Stockton

By Scott Linesburgh
Staff Writer
The Stockton Record

STOCKTON, Calif. – Tyler Burton and Steve Vanoosten grew up playing hockey together and became best friends.

They eventually separated to pursue their hockey careers, but the boyhood teammates from Langley, British Columbia will be back together next season in Stockton.

Vanoosten and Burton signed one-year contracts with the Thunder. The details were not disclosed. Both pursued negotiations separately, but were excited upon realizing they once again would wear the jersey of the same team.

“Obviously this is great for us and we’re both looking forward to it,” Vanoosten said. “Hockey players tend to get to know each other really quick, but going to a new city with Tyler will definitely help.”

Burton and Vanoosten started playing together at age 5, and spent about 10 years together through the youth leagues and into juniors.

“We were teammates and became best friends, and during the summer we work together,” Burton said. “So it’s great it worked out like this.”

Burton and Vanoosten started playing hockey in the same town, but they took different paths to the Thunder.

Vanoosten, 24, played four years at the University of Alaska-Fairbanks. The defenseman is entering his first season as a professional. Burton, a 24-year-old forward, played with the Trenton Devils of the ECHL and the Lowell (Mass.) Devils of the American Hockey League last season before his season ended prematurely in January because of an injury.

“I feel good and started skating about two or three weeks ago,” Burton said. “I’m ready to go.”

Thunder coach Matt Thomas said Burton has passed a physical and believes he will be an offensive threat.

“He’s healthy, and he has the ability to be a top scorer,” Thomas said.

He is also optimistic about Vanoosten.

“He’s a good defenseman who skates very well, and that’s always important,” Thomas said. “He’s going to help us.”