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, 2008Â – “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,Â 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! TheÂ Buffalo SabresÂ 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.