Irish American Brian Burke will lead the U.S. hockey team into round one of their Olympic battle Tuesday as he struggles to come to come to terms with a heartbreaking family tragedy.

Burke's son Brendan was killed on Feb. 5 in a car accident in Indiana. He was buried just two days before the Olympics opened.

Burke said the funeral and reception hewed closely to Irish tradition.

"I'm one of 10 kids and the support was massive," he said. "We had a reception, it was a celebration of Brendan's life ... we did it the old-fashioned Irish way," he said.

"My family needs me to be strong and my team needs to be strong. I think part of leadership is dealing with personal adversity or personal difficulty," Burke said.

"So no, there was never a thought of not coming (here) or doing anything different.

"I couldn't bring myself to march in the Opening Ceremony even though I'd planned to because my heart wasn't in it. I would have been an impostor. But my son would have wanted me to be here."

"I only know one way, which is to fight back. I'm Irish."

Burke told Fanhouse that he was overwhelmed by the support from the hockey community after Brendan's death - and before in 2007 when Brendan revealed that he was gay.

"The response I got from the hockey community about Brendan being gay was overwhelmingly supportive. I saved all the emails I got after the article came out, a stack of them about this high. There were maybe 200 of them from former players and current players and (executives), all walks of hockey.

"I was going to put them in a book and give them to Brendan at his graduation," he said.

"The message from the hockey community was that this was a wall that didn't need to be there. If it took one young man's courage to kick that door open, then let's make sure it stays open. I'm very proud of the role Brendan played in that, and I pledged to him that message won't get lost."


Tragedy: U.S. hockey manager Brian Burke whose son Brendan was killed in a road accident