Brian Burke (ice hockey)


Brian P. Burke (born June 30, 1955) is an American-Canadian ice hockey executive, currently the Executive Director of the Professional Women’s Hockey League Player's Association (PWHLPA). He previously worked in the NHL league office, including as the director of hockey operations, and worked as general manager of the Hartford Whalers, Vancouver Canucks, Anaheim Ducks—with whom he won the Stanley Cup in 2007—and Toronto Maple Leafs, as well as president of hockey operations for the Leafs, Calgary Flames, and Pittsburgh Penguins. Burke was general manager for the silver-medalist United States national team for the 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver. He is a member of Rugby Canada's board of directors. Burke was inducted into the Rhode Island Hockey Hall of Fame in 2019.

Brian Burke
Burke in 2009
Born (1955-06-30) June 30, 1955 (age 68)
Alma materProvidence College
Harvard Law School
Years active1987–present
Known forIce hockey executive (1987–present)
ChildrenSix, including Brendan
Awards2007 Stanley Cup[note 1]

Early life and playing career Edit

Born in Providence, Rhode Island, and raised in Edina, Minnesota, in a family of ten children.[1] Burke graduated from Edina High School followed by Providence College in 1977 with a Bachelor of Arts degree in history.[2] While attending Providence, he played for the Friars Division-I ice hockey team, where, during his senior year, he served as captain under coach Lou Lamoriello. He was also a teammate of Ron Wilson's there.[3]

In 1977, Burke played seven games with the Springfield Indians of the American Hockey League (AHL). He then signed with the Philadelphia Flyers in the off-season and proceeded to play one full year in the AHL with the Maine Mariners, winning a Calder Cup championship that year.[4] After one year in the AHL, Burke attended Harvard Law School, where he graduated with a Juris Doctor in 1981. After graduating, Burke became an NHL player agent.[5]

Executive career Edit

Early career Edit

In 1987, he was hired by Pat Quinn to be the director of hockey operations for the Vancouver Canucks. In the 1992–93 season, he left that job to become general manager of the Hartford Whalers. Burke stepped down[6] after one year in Hartford, so he could join the NHL front office as executive vice president and director of hockey operations, under league commissioner Gary Bettman. In that role, he served as the league's chief disciplinarian.

Vancouver Canucks Edit

The Sedins with the Vancouver Canucks. Burke drafted both players in the first round of the 1999 NHL Entry Draft as the general manager of the Canucks.

In 1998, he became general manager of the Vancouver Canucks.[7] With the Canucks, he was credited with reviving the ailing franchise and increasing attendance, with the drafting and signing of several key players such as Daniel Sedin, Henrik Sedin and Ryan Kesler, as the team won a playoff series and captured a division title. Following the 2003–04 NHL season, Canucks ownership chose not to renew Burke's contract for the GM position. Burke then briefly worked as an analyst for NHL games on both CBC and TSN. Burke's total record with the Canucks was 219-181-68-24.

Criticism Edit

Brian Burke faced public criticism for his treatment of forward Peter Zezel. Zezel had requested that he be traded to an East Coast team in order to be closer to Toronto so that he could see his 5-year old niece who had terminal cancer. Instead, Burke sent Zezel to the Anaheim Ducks, the NHL city furthest away from Toronto. As a result, Zezel retired from the NHL. Only after public and media outcry did Burke decide to buyout Zezel's contract.[8]

Anaheim Ducks Edit

As the 2004-05 NHL Lockout was coming to a close, Burke was announced as the next GM of the Anaheim Ducks. In his first year with the club, the Ducks made it all the way to the third round before falling to the Edmonton Oilers in the Western Conference Final. The following year, Burke won the Stanley Cup with the Anaheim Ducks in the 2006–07 NHL season. Burke stepped down as GM of the Anaheim Ducks on November 12, 2008.[9] The Ducks management submitted papers to the NHL, releasing him from contractual commitment.

Toronto Maple Leafs Edit

On November 29, 2008, Burke was introduced as the president and general manager of the Toronto Maple Leafs, replacing interim general manager Cliff Fletcher.[10] He became the 13th non-interim general manager of the club and the first to be American-born. He reportedly agreed to a six-year deal worth $3 million annually. Soon thereafter, on December 4, 2008, Burke offered Dave Nonis the position of senior vice president and director of hockey operations for the Maple Leafs; Nonis accepted, marking the third time he has held this post under Burke; he had done so previously in Anaheim and Vancouver.[11]

Burke attended the World Hockey Summit hosted in Toronto in 2010, and wanted NHL participation in the Winter Olympics to continue, but felt that teams should receive financial compensation while the NHL season was on hiatus during the Olympics. He proposed allowing the NHL oversee a world championship which had potential to a financially lucrative venture while league games were not being played.[12]

On January 9, 2013, Burke was fired by the Leafs as president and general manager and given a role as senior advisor to MLSE's president and C.O.O. Tom Anselmi and the MLSE board of directors.[13] The advisory role would not relate to hockey matters. Burke was fired principally by team director George A. Cope, who campaigned the team's new ownership to make a change in team leadership.[14] During Burke's tenure with the Leafs from November 2008 to January 2013, the team consistently failed to make the post-season and remained the only team in the League that was unable to do so following the 2004 lockout. With the Leafs, Burke amassed a record of 129-135-42.[15]

Criticism Edit

Phil Kessel with the Toronto Maple Leafs. Kessel was acquired by the Leafs as a result of a controversial trade by Burke in 2009.

During his time in Toronto, Burke was notably criticized for a controversial trade in 2009 with Boston, when he acquired sniper Phil Kessel for two first-round draft picks and a second-round selection. The Bruins used the picks to select star forward Tyler Seguin, Dougie Hamilton and Jared Knight.

In December 2011, Burke drew criticism in the media for his mid-season extension of head coach Ron Wilson, a longtime friend. "Burke and Wilson were born a month apart, were college roommates and teammates on the Providence College Friars hockey team in Rhode Island in the 1970s and have been friends ever since.[16][17] Despite Wilson's three consecutive losing seasons, Burke renewed Wilson's contract with a $2 million extension.[18] News of the contract broke on social media site Twitter, where Wilson posted that "This Xmas could be better if Santa stuffs a certain piece of paper in my stocking" and "'He came! He came!' [...] I got a new Red Ryder BB gun and a contract extension!", to which Burke replied, "Congratulations to Ron Wilson on his contract extension! Merry Christmas Ron!"[19] Later, Burke defended his decision in the media, stating "This is a coach who's earned this, a coach who's earned this extension," and "It's not charity. It's not a gift."[20] However, Wilson was released with full pay three months later following mounting losses and jeers from fans. "Every coach has a shelf life," Burke said. "After the last home game, it would be cruel and unusual punishment to let Ron coach another game in the Air Canada Centre."[21]

Calgary Flames Edit

Burke attending a CHL/NHL Top Prospects Game in 2014.

On September 5, 2013, Burke was named the president of hockey operations for the Calgary Flames.[22] After firing Jay Feaster and John Weisbrod, Burke assumed the role of acting general manager during the search for a permanent GM. On April 28, 2014, Burke hired Brad Treliving as the GM of the Calgary Flames.[23]

After nearly five years on the job, Burke stepped back from his role as president of the Flames' hockey operations on April 27, 2018. [24]

Pittsburgh Penguins Edit

On February 9, 2021, Burke was hired as the President of Hockey Operations for the Pittsburgh Penguins. On April 14, 2023, the Penguins announced that they had fired Burke after missing the playoffs for the first time since 2005–06, ending a 16 year playoff appearance streak for the organization.[25]


On August 29, 2023, Burke was named as the Executive Director of the Professional Women’s Hockey League Players' Association, the player union for the newly formed Professional Women's Hockey League (PWHL).[26] At the inaugural PWHL draft on September 18, Burke stated that it was "the biggest day in the history of women's hockey", and he went on to explain his optimism about the new league: "For the first time, we've got one united league. Properly funded, properly staffed, properly backed up. It's the best chance women have had."[27]

Broadcasting career Edit

Following his departure from the Calgary Flames, Burke joined Rogers Media as an ice hockey analyst during the 2018 Stanley Cup playoffs in April 2018.[28] He worked as a hockey analyst with Sportsnet[29] and on Hockey Night in Canada until his hiring by the Pittsburgh Penguins in February 2021.

In October 2020, Burke in collaboration with Stephen Brunt released a memoir about Burke's life entitled “Burke’s Law”.

Personal life Edit

Burke is of Irish descent through both parents, with roots in County Roscommon and County Mayo.[30] A dual citizen of the United States and Canada, Burke has two daughters with ex-wife Jennifer Mather Burke, an anchor at CTV News Channel.[31] One of his daughters Katie was married to baseball executive Jared Porter until 2014.[32]

Burke attends a tribute for his son Brendan Burke, on February 5, 2011.

Burke also has four children from a previous marriage, including Patrick, a former scout for the Philadelphia Flyers[33] and as of 2015 a director in the NHL's Department of Player Safety.[34] Burke is a strong supporter of gay rights and attended the 2009 Toronto Gay Pride Parade with his son Brendan Burke, who was gay.[35] On February 5, 2010, Brendan died at age 21 from injuries suffered in a car accident in Indiana.[36] Brian Burke also participated in the 2010 and 2011 Toronto Gay Pride parades. On March 4, 2012, Burke and his son Patrick launched the You Can Play project in honor of Brendan, which is targeted at ending homophobia in sports.[37]

Defamation lawsuit filed against anonymous posters Edit

On April 26, 2013, Burke filed a lawsuit against 18 individuals who had anonymously posted on websites that the actual reason Burke was fired from the Maple Leafs was for allegedly having an affair with a female sportscaster and fathering her child. Burke said the claims were false and defamatory. He sued to seek court orders disclosing the names of those who posted the accusations.[38]

Burke was able to achieve a minor victory in the Supreme Court of British Columbia, which ruled that anonymous defendants could be served notice of the proceedings through the private messaging on the message boards they had used to make the statements about Burke. As of April 2014, Burke and his legal team had tracked down the identities of several of the individuals and forced them to make retractions.[needs update][39]

Notes Edit

  1. ^ As general manager of the Anaheim Ducks.

References Edit

  1. ^ "Elite Prospects - Brian Burke Team Staff Profile". Retrieved 2019-09-16.
  2. ^ "Edina's Brian Burke Pens Memoir On Life In NHL". MSN. November 10, 2020. Retrieved 27 January 2021.
  3. ^ "Former Friars Brian Burke and Ron Wilson Set To Lead U.S. Men's Hockey Team In Vancouver Olympics". Providence College Athletics. Retrieved 2019-09-16.
  4. ^ Meltzer, Bill (August 17, 2014). "Meltzer's Musings: Kerr vs. LeClair, Quick Hits". Retrieved November 5, 2022.
  5. ^ "Brian Burke career highlights". CBC News. 2008-11-12. Retrieved 2019-09-16.
  6. ^ "The Hartford Whalers Historical Timeline" Archived 2014-08-15 at the Wayback Machine. Hartford Courant.
  7. ^ "PLUS: HOCKEY -- VANCOUVER; Burke Rejoins Canucks as G.M." The New York Times. 1998-06-23. Retrieved 2019-09-16.
  8. ^ "The 101 Greatest Canucks: The tragic story of Peter Zezel".
  9. ^ "Burke Steps Down". Rogers Sportsnet, November 12, 2008.
  10. ^ Leafs introduce Burke as new president and general manager. TSN, November 29, 2008.
  11. ^ "Burke offers front office position to Dave Nonis. TSN, December 4, 2008.
  12. ^ Hunter, Paul (August 25, 2010). "Olympic question dominates Hockey Summit". Toronto Star. Retrieved May 20, 2020.
  13. ^ Maple Leafs Announce Management Changes., 9 January 2013.
  14. ^ "Brian Burke fired: Decision by Toronto Maple Leafs' new suits lacked class: Cox | Toronto Star". 2013-01-10. Retrieved 2013-12-04.
  15. ^ Piercy, Justin (2013-01-09). "Maple Leafs fire Brian Burke". CBC Sports. Archived from the original on 2013-05-17. Retrieved 2013-12-04.
  16. ^ Cox, Damien (2012-03-02). "Ron Wilson fired: Leafs turn to Randy Carlyle". Toronto Star. Retrieved 2019-06-21.
  17. ^ Woods, Michael (2012-03-01). "Maple Leafs GM Brian Burke facing dirty job if he decides Ron Wilson has to go". Toronto Star. Retrieved 2019-06-21.
  18. ^ Fitz-Gerald, Sean (2012-03-06). "Toronto Maple Leafs GM Brian Burke hangs up on radio host". National Post. Archived from the original on 2013-02-16. Retrieved 2013-12-04.
  19. ^ Perry, Rod (2011-12-25). "Leafs coach Wilson tweets contract extension". CBC Sports. Retrieved 2013-12-04.
  20. ^ Fitz-Gerald, Sean (2011-12-26). "Toronto Maples Leafs' Ron Wilson earned new contract: Brian Burke". National Post. Archived from the original on 2013-02-16. Retrieved 2013-12-04.
  21. ^ Staff writers (2012-03-03). "Ron Wilson fired to save him from more 'cruel punishment' from Leafs' fans: Brian Burke". National Post. Archived from the original on 2013-02-16. Retrieved 2013-12-04.
  22. ^ "Brian Burke named President of Hockey Operations - Calgary Flames - News". Retrieved 2013-12-04.
  23. ^ "Brad Treliving excited to be new Flames GM". CBC.
  24. ^ "BRIAN BURKE STEPPING BACK FROM CSEC". Retrieved 2018-04-27.
  25. ^ "Penguins Make Changes in Hockey Operations". Retrieved 2023-04-14.
  26. ^ "Brian Burke named executive director of pro women's hockey players' union". Sportsnet. 2023-08-29. Retrieved 2023-09-19.
  27. ^ "Burke: PWHL Draft 'the biggest day in the history of women's hockey'". The Sports Network. 2023-09-18. Retrieved 2023-09-19.
  28. ^ "Brian Burke Joins Sportsnet for Remainder of 2018 Stanley Cup Playoffs Coverage". Rogers Communications. April 27, 2018. Retrieved September 6, 2019.
  29. ^ "Brian Burke | PrimeTime Sports and Entertainment". Retrieved 2019-09-16.
  30. ^ 🖉Hornby, Lance. "Irish eyes smile on Maple Leafs | SaltWire".
  31. ^ "Jennifer Burke, Anchor, CTV News Channel". Archived from the original on 2010-03-14. Retrieved 2010-01-14.
  32. ^ Fowler, Kate (January 19, 2021). "Does Jared Porter have a wife? Mets GM admits sending explicit photos to Reporter". HTC. Retrieved January 19, 2021.
  33. ^ We're starting from scratch and we're playin' GM. ESPN, February 12, 2008.
  34. ^ "". August 22, 2013. Retrieved September 17, 2016.
  35. ^ Buccigross, John (2009-11-25). "'We love you, this won't change a thing'". ESPN. Retrieved 2009-11-26.
  36. ^ Staff, TSN.CA (2010-02-05). "Brian Burke's son, Brendan, passes away after auto accident". TSN. Retrieved 2010-02-05.
  37. ^ Staff, IBTIMES.COM (2012-03-05). "You Can Play: New Foundation Supports LGBT Athletes". IBTIMES. Retrieved 2012-03-08. Bryan has one older brother, Trevor, who resides in their hometown of Vancouver, BC.
  38. ^ Jessica McDiarmid (April 27, 2013). "Former Toronto Maple Leafs GM Brian Burke files defamation lawsuit over Internet 'lies'". Toronto: Toronto Star. Retrieved April 27, 2013.
  39. ^ Matthew Lee (April 17, 2014). "Defamation, Celebrities, and the Internet". Harvard Journal on Sports & Entertainment Law. Retrieved February 9, 2015.

External links Edit

  • Biographical information and career statistics from, or, or The Internet Hockey Database
  • Brian Burke's trades as GM of the Maple Leafs
  • Brian Burke's trades as GM of the Ducks
  • Brian Burke's trades as GM of the Canucks
  • Brian Burke's trades as GM of the Flames
Preceded by General Manager of the Hartford Whalers
Succeeded by
Preceded by General Manager of the Vancouver Canucks
Succeeded by
Preceded by General Manager of the Mighty Ducks of Anaheim/Anaheim Ducks
Succeeded by
Preceded by General Manager of the Toronto Maple Leafs
Succeeded by
Preceded by General Manager of the Calgary Flames

Succeeded by