Burke Leaves Anaheim With Cup Ring But Without Honor

So…Brian Burke has stepped down as the General Manager of the Anaheim Ducks and is now free to go and work for any other NHL team. This has happened just months after Burke told the media repeatedly that he wanted to work for the Ducks as long as the ownership would have him – and then he turned down their contract extension. The Ducks ownership still wants you, Brian, so why are you not here? What changed? Oh, that’s right, your family suddenly became the most important thing in your life.

The family issue is, to me, a smoke screen. That’s the reason Burke gives to the media and the public so that he wouldn’t look like such a dick when he left the Ducks for the Leafs. The real reason he wants to work in Toronto is that he wants to be the GM of an Original Six franchise in THE center of the hockey universe. It’s ego, not family, that lured Burke to Toronto and it’s ego, not family, that will make him take the Leafs job and not the Bruins.

If it was really about family why wouldn’t he take the Bruins job? Then he could have his entire family in one area and could drive to see his kids and his grandkids whenever he wanted. He could have his kids and grandkids at practices with him – at games with him. He would have it all – including being the GM of an Original Six franchise that is starving for a Championship. Remember, Burke was born and raised in Providence, Rhode Island – the home of the Bruins farm team and just a train ride away from Boston itself. If Burke’s lack of interest in staying with the Ducks is truly about family then what could be better than to return to his hometown to be the head of the Boston Bruins?

If it was really about family then why did Brian Burke spend the last 10 years working for the Vancouver Canucks and the Anaheim Ducks? Did his family not matter to him then? He had a job with the NHL working in New York but he left it to take over as GM of the Canucks? Apparently living close to his family didn’t matter much anymore.

But it’s not about family – it’s about ego. Anaheim and the media out here did not stroke Burke’s ego enough. There weren’t enough people asking for him to comment on things, not enough people telling him how great he was and not enough of the NHL folks seeing him at the rink. Anaheim is a great place for someone who wants to work and be left alone but it is a horrible place for a person that likes to be interviewed and talked about.

Let’s take a look at the timeline and some quotes regarding the rumors that Brian Burke would leave Anaheim for Toronto:

January 23rd, 2008 – “Nothing’s going to change. My wife (Jennifer) and I love it in Anaheim. Our intention is to extend our deal and stay in Anaheim. We have a wonderful situation with the Samuelis. Our intention is to stay, unless and until they don’t want us. I have 17 months to go on my contract. I certainly don’t feel the Samuelis owe me anything now. This type of stuff – that’s how they are in Toronto. Don’t bet any money on Brian Burke going anywhere any time soon.”

Then, on February 29th, reports came out that the Toronto Maple Leafs would offer Brian Burke the Predidency and General Manager’s job and that they would promise his wife a prominent job with a media organizations in Toronto.

Burke responded to this speculation on March 1st: “I have no intention of going anywhere else. I’ve said this repeatedly to anyone who will listen. I’m not sure which part of it I’m not saying in English. We really love it in Anaheim. We work for special people there. We want to stay. I’m flattered by all the attention and that someone would think I’m the right guy for this, but I have a job that I love and I work for special people in the Samuelis. I’m not going anywhere.”

On April 22nd reports surfaced about exactly how much the Leafs would offer Burke: “Five years, $25 million.” according to the Toronto Sun. Very shortly after those numbers came out Brian Burke’s stance changed from “I have no intention of going anywhere else” and “Our intention is to stay in Anaheim unless and until they don’t want us” to “I’m under contract for one more season here in Anaheim, that’s a fact. Unless or until I arrive upon terms of a contract extension here in Anaheim, I have no intention of further discussing my situation.”

The Toronto Sun attributed the information to “figures kicking around the hockey world.” Where would such figures come from? The Coyotes? The Flames? Maybe the Blue Jackets? They had to come from the Leafs and THAT IS TAMPERING! The Buffalo Sabres couldn’t tell John Vogl of the Buffalo News “we’re going to give Jay Bouwmeester a 5-year, $30 million contract offer this coming summer” and then have them write that in the paper attributed to an anonymous source. “League sources tell me that the Sabres may be interested in extending Panthers Jay Bouwmeester a contract offer to this coming offseason and that they could be willing to go as high as six-years, $30 million. Sabres GM Darcy Regier would not confirm these reports.” Don’t you think that would influence Bouwmeester’s negotiations with the Panthers on a contract extension? Wouldn’t Bouwmeester and his agent know that all they had to do was wait until July 1st to sign that deal? Don’t you think that’s exactly what the Leafs did by leaking information about what they were willing to offer Burke? It’s tampering, flat out.

Commissioner Gary Bettman, in his state of the league address, said that “If there’s tampering going on, ultimately there are no secrets in this world. We will get to the bottom of it. And I’m no fan of tampering. And when it happens, it gets punished severely. A team that meddles with an individual under contract could face heavy fines and the loss of draft picks.” Well, Mr. Commissioner, tampering has gone on so get to the bottom of it and deal out those heavy fines and/or loss of draft picks.

The day after that report was posted in the Toronto Sun Burke and the Ducks announced that he would stay with the team until his contract expired and would continue to talk about an extension. Around that time the Leafs also called off their search for a GM and said they’d stick with Cliff Fletcher as the interim GM instead. Notice they didn’t name him as the GM, they just stopped looking for his replacement. They also hired Brian Burke’s former college teammate, Ron Wilson, to be their head coach. Brian Burke’s wife, Jennifer, also quit her job as a television show host in Vancouver.

At that point we were left to wait for one of two things to happen: Either Brian Burke’s contract with the Ducks would expire or he would be released from it by the organization. As it turns out the latter happened on November 12th which allows Brian Burke to go to Toronto to formally negotiate his contract. Because after all, it’s all about family for Brian Burke and what better chance to be with his family than to work for a team that is over 400 miles away from them and where the media will never stop requesting “just a few minutes of his time”?

Brian Burke’s a guy that gets a lot of credit for telling it like it is and being honest with players, fans and the media. But he’s flat out lied to the Ducks ownership, their fans and the media for months now. I believe that Burke wanted to work for the Ducks in 2005 because he couldn’t get another job and then, when he won the Cup in 2007, he knew he could write his own ticket with the team of his choice so he never signed an extension and instead waited for his contract to expire.

Burke’s legacy with the Ducks will be mixed – he was the GM that put together the first Stanley Cup Championship team in the history of the organization and in the history of California. He was also the guy that lied to them about his desire to continue working for the Ducks and then lied to them again about the reason he left the organization. Burke did not once tell it like it is in regards to his desires and intentions with the Ducks, and right now that’s what I remember about him. He lied to me, the Ducks ownership, the Ducks front office, the Ducks players and every other Ducks fan for months. Thanks for the Cup, Burke, now go tell your lies to the Leafs, their fans and their media and see if they swallow it. I will never believe another word that comes out of your mouth.

About Doug Stolhand 26986 Articles
Doug Stolhand is one of the co-founders and co-hosts of the Puck Podcast and has been a member of the NHL media since the show's inception in 2006.

7 Comments

  1. Betrayed again as a Ducks fan! Perhaps Burkie can go sip on some “F Hockey We’re Doing It For The Money” beers with Kariya!

  2. I recently heard on the NHL Hour that Brian Burke had told the Samuelis that he was planning to leave after this year, and the Samuelis decided that it was time to move on already, no matter what time of the season it was.

  3. So, how does this all align with the alleged lunch meeting Burkie had with a certain Mats Sundin a few weeks ago??? Hmmmmmmmmm.
    Just asking.

  4. I’ll throw in some Toronto (well, near-by Toronto) perspective in here.

    Doug, I think you’re words are a bit too strong. Sure you can stitch things together the way you did to make a view, but it doesn’t make it the truth. The fact is, right now at least, that we don’t know the truth. While it can be speculated, we don’t have evidence yet of A) What Burke’s intentions truly are, B) What happened behind closed doors in Toronto, and C) How those estimated figures came up.

    There’s really only one way that we’re going to find out Burke’s true intentions, and that is if we find out that the Bruins are offering him the job, and that he’s not taking it. I’m not so sure Boston would be interested though. Personally, I’ve been really impressed with what Peter Chiarelli has been able to do, and I think the organization has too. As much as the Toronto media is building Burke up to be great, I’d hold onto Chiarelli if I had the choice.

    Beyond that, even if Boston DID offer him the job, his “family first” attitude still stands up in my opinion. One key detail that you didn’t mention is that his wife has a stake in this as well. Yes, Boston would be great for Burke’s relationship with his children/grandchildren, but moving to Toronto would mean that he’s reasonably close (a lot closer than California) to Boston AND that his wife could continue her career in Canadian television. Sure, it’s not ideal, but it’s an improvement over what they’ve had. If Boston went ape shit insane, and for some reason had a CBC affiliate, and they still went to Toronto, then I’d be more willing to run him through the mud.

    The whole tampering situation is a tricky one. Doug, you may be right on this one, but it might also not be the case. The reason that it’s tricky is because the Toronto hockey media has done this sort of thing in the past. Which sort of thing, you ask? Well, pretty much lie/construct reports themselves. Those numbers could have come from anywhere. It could have been MLSE, which would be disgusting, or it also could have been what his estimated value was speculated at by analysts, or merely a person pulling numbers out of their ass for a story. Whatever the case, I hope Bettman would follow through with his words and punish the Leafs if they are proven to have been tampering. I’d take Burke’s word over Bettman’s word any day though, so let’s see if anything happens from this.

    Lastly, on the topic of Burke’s statements from earlier in the year that he was happy in Anaheim, that could have all just been PR. I remember there being reports that Michael Schulman (Ducks CEO) had confronted Burke about what he says to the media about their contract situation, and demanded that Burke basically fortify to the press the fact that he was the current Ducks GM. There could have been a lot of pressure on Burke from above to try and squash the attention, whatever his feelings actually were. Hell, changing your mind shouldn’t have you crucified either.

  5. WWWWAAAAAAA!!!!!!!!
    We have known of the worst kept secret for months now. Get over it. Burke did an awsome job in Anaheim, but now he is gone. Move along Doug, “It’s time for change.”

  6. Being a Ducks fan it’s no longer the fact that he left. It’s the fact that this so-called “by the books” GM lied his way out of not fulfilling his contract. That’s it.

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