MLHS Morning Mashup: Burke on the Summit

MLHS Morning Mashup: Burke on the Summit

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The Maple Leafs‘ Brian Burke, the Raptors’ Bryan Colangelo and the Blue Jays’ Paul Beeston got together for a “Presidents Summit” interview hosted by Bob McCown on the Fan590 yesterday (full audio is available here, video here). The interview provided some insights on Brian Burke the man, the ins and outs of the business as well as some issues (outside of headshots) facing the game. Some transcribed Burke highlights from the interview:

“Bob McCown: Which of the three of you has the toughest job [Colangelo thought it was Burke due to the powerfulness of the Maple Leaf brand]?

Brian Burke: I think so [that I do]. I think I also have the best job in hockey too. If you wanna work for an original six team, you wanna work in Canada. I think these are the things you aspire to as a general manager and if you get the opportunity you are one lucky guy. It means some tough days, where you’re walking uphill and it’s raining in your face. There’s five million people in the GTA and every one of them thinks they know more about running this team than I do. But the passion’s great and just watching the building this year, how excited people got with some decent performances… this is a great hockey city.


BM: You are 25 years old, your education is complete, and there’s no career path available to you to follow like you have. There’s no job leading you to baseball, no job leading you to basketball or hockey. What do you do?

BB: When I was 25 I was in law school. I had no idea what I wanted to do, I didn’t even want to go to law school, I got talked into that. So I had no idea. I remember my first day at Harvard Law School, some guy told me he wanted to be a litigator and I didn’t even know what a litigator was. He said “what do you want to be,” I said “I wanna graduate.” I had no career path. Kids will come to me at 22-years-old and say I have no idea what I want to be, I say “good, neither do I.” I still don’t know what I want to be in ten years. I had no aspirations to play in pro hockey, I wasn’t good enough because I started so late. I got to do that, not very long but I got to win a Calder Cup. I had no aspirations of working in hockey, but I got to do that. This is just like a dream for me, the career path I’ve been able to put together. I feel very fortunate. But no, I didn’t have any plans… 25 years old, I was in law school, sweating it out.

BM: And even now, if you flash back to be 25 years old, is there something that you say “if I couldn’t do this, there is something I’ve discovered.” Nothing?

BB: Teach. I taught law school for ten years while I was working for the Canucks. I didn’t take any money for it because I enjoyed it. What I try to do and the advice I give young people is I’ve always tried to have as many options as I can at any point or turn of my career. So in my senior year of college I had been accepted in Harvard Law School and the Flyers offered me a contract; two pretty good options. Deferred my admission, signed with the Flyers, and then went back. To me, if you bust your ass, you’re known as a hard worker and you’re good at your job… I can go back and work for just about any employer I ever worked for, I could go back to digging ditches because I was the hardest worker on the crew. So my goal has always been deliver and don’t complain, just get the job done and you can always go back and work there. Most of the places I’ve worked, they would have me back.

BM: Who would you say is your most trusted confidante?

BB: On the staff it would be Dave Nonis but off staff, if I was going to call a hockey guy and needed an opinion, which you do from time to time if you are thinking of making a trade you’re not really sure … I would call Lou Lamoriello or Glen Sather, two guys I respect.

BM: In the hockey community, you guys can talk candidly and share ideas and information?

BB: Yeah. The only obligation is that, if you’re in on that same deal, you’ve got to disclose that right away and say “stop right there, we’re in on that guy.” And that will happen from time to time. That happened to me with Paul Holmgren last year where we were both in on the same guy … sometimes you do need to go outside your organization, sometimes your organization gets focused on something and you’re only looking at it from one angle, and you get somebody who is standing on the opposite side of the street looking at it, sometimes it’s helpful to say “what about this?” I remember I called Cliff when I was a rookie GM in 1992 in Hartford, and I got a trade offer from Glen Sather for Geoff Sanderson. I was a brand new GM and didn’t know this player so I called Cliff and I said “I have a chance to make a trade and move Geoff Sanderson.” He said “have a cold drink, walk around the block and forget all about it.” I said why and he said “because you don’t know what you have there.” He had 14 goals the year before, he had 46 that year for us. We hung onto him and he ended up with 46 goals, explosive player, great kid. That was Cliff giving a real, honest answer, not trying to hijack the deal, he said “forget about it, keep the kid.” And it was great advice.

BM: Night game, a tough loss. Do you take it home with you?

BB: Yep. I don’t like losing, show me someone who likes losing and they won’t be successful. I don’t like it, I don’t take it lightly, I take it home. My kids, they know, we’re getting in the car, we’re driving home and it’s going to be a a quiet ride. Just let me brood. Sometimes you lose to a team that plays really well and earns the win, and sometimes you hand it to them. The ones where you hand it over, where your special teams [must have been a lot of quiet car rides this year] let you down and you lose, those are the ones that don’t go away. You’re not going to win every game, no team has ever done it in our league. So you’re not going to win every game, you have to adjust and accept some losing, but it’s the ones where you gave the other team that victory, especially in the playoffs, you remember those years later. We were up 3-1 on the Minnesota Wild, one year in Vancouver, we blew that lead and lost a Game 7 when we went home. I still hate that building in Minnesota from that series, even though we won a series there with Anaheim. I still hate that building only because I think back to losing that Game 6 that we just handed them. I was sure as hell we were going to lose Game 7 and we did. It bothers me now even talking about it.

BM: What sport is most likely to establish a foothold outside of North America first? Which one is the first one to put a franchise somewhere outside of North America?

BB: I don’t think it’s us. Bryan knows a lot more about basketball than I do, intuitively I think he’s right. For us, the biggest single problem is the buildings in Europe don’t generate NHL economics. In terms of the seating capacity, the suites, what they charge for tickets, they cannot support the economics of having an NHL team there. That’s changing, the new building in Prague could probably generate those type of dollars but like the arena in Stockholm has 14,000 seats,  it’s too small. It’s a full contact sport we play, if you go over there you want to play at least … it’s the same thing as when you go out West, I want to play 4-6 games every time we go out West. I don’t wanna go out West and play 3 games. Now, you’re on the road, what’s the circuit? Do you play back to back in Stockholm? Do you go Stockholm, Prague, Helsinki? It’s years and years away. And, we’ve got to worry about the predatory effect it has on those leagues, we get a lot of players from those leagues. If you take out the building in Stockholm, there are two teams that play there, Djurgardens and AIK, where do they go? And what would the damage be to that league which has produced so many wonderful players for us? There are lots of problems, I can’t see it happening in the near future at all.

BM: Does your sport need more instant replay?

BB: It’s fine. You’ve got to really be careful where you start and stop in taking that out of the hands of the officials.”

***

Onto the mashup with Greg:

Leafs Links:

Center of Attention : Brad Richards Edition

Fanpost at PPP with an in-depth look at Brad Richards career statistics.

Playoff Links:

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Penguins hold off Lightning 3-2 in Game 3

Marc-Andre Fleury backstopped the Penguins with 25 saves and a 2-1 series lead over the Lightning.

One in five concussed NHLers returned to play in same game: study

Study from the University of Calgary reveals that 27 per cent of concussed players returned to action without undergoing a medical evaluation by team staff.

Tonight in Leafs Prospects:

Led by defensive stalwart Jesse Blacker, the Owen Sound Attack look to defeat the two-time defending OHL champs in Windsor. Kenny Ryan has been a steady presence on the wing for the Spitfires, with four goals and seven assists in 13 games. The winner of this best-of-seven series will advance to the OHL championship and move closer to the ultimate goal of securing a berth in the Memorial Cup, which takes place in Mississauga between May 20-29.

Your Say:

Will the Canucks put their demons to rest and sweep their series against Chicago tonight? Is it too little, too late for the Bruins? How do you think the rest of the first round will unfold?

Alec Brownscombe is the founder of MapleLeafsHotStove.com, where he has written daily about the Leafs since September of 2008. He was also the editor of the 2009-12 Maple Leafs Annuals. You can contact him at [email protected]

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