Tuesday, 20 February 2007

The Oscar for "Best Quote As A GM" Goes To...

I've always been a fan of Brian Burke. From the tell-it-how-it-is attitude he has to the hilarious soundbytes he has offered up over the years, Brian Burke might be the most entertaining general manager in sports today. Not only that, but the man knows hockey. He has transformed the Anaheim Ducks into a legitimate playoff threat. He rebuilt the Vancouver Canucks after the Mike Keenan-Mark Messier experiment failed miserably. Brian Burke has also been an excellent analyst for CBC and TSN, and served some time as the man in charge of officiating at the NHL offices. As much as he is hated in some circles of the NHL, he isn't hated here.

Born June 30, 1955 in Providence, Rhode Island, Brian Burke graduated in 1977 from Providence College with a B.A. in history. He played Division-I hockey with the Friars, and captained the team in his senior year in 1976-77. During that season, Burke scored nine goals and seven assists in 29 games while racking up 57 PIMs. He also played for the Springfield Indians of the AHL for seven games that season, scoring zero points and picking up 2 PIMs. The following season, Burke played with the Maine Mariners for 65 games, scoring three goals and five assists while spending 60 minutes in the penalty box. The Mariners qualified for the playoffs where they went on to win the Calder Cup that year. In eight playoff games, Burke scored no points, but spent 25 minutes in the "sin bin".

After his one-year stint in the AHL, Burke went to Harvard Law School. He graduated in 1981 with his law degree, and went back into hockey with his degree. Brian served as the GM for the Hartford Whalers. He joined the Vancouver Canucks on June 22, 1998 as their GM. Burke worked with the Canucks until his contract was not renewed on May 3, 2004. On June 20, 2005, Henry and Susan Samueli appointed Brian Burke as Executive Vice-President and General Manager of the Anaheim Ducks, a position he is currently holding.

Burke has never been one to shy away from a microphone. In fact, Burke made some pretty honest remarks this week about GMs making inquiries about his younger players. He talked about deals involving his younger stars to the Canadian Press.

"The deals that have been put in front of me haven't been worth spending a lot of time on," said Burke. "They've been short, profanity-laced conversations. They ask for the same group of young guys and I'm not moving any of those guys for a rental.

"It's just not going to happen. I don't know if the prices are too high for other people but they don't suit me. I'm not interested in anything that's been thrown at me yet."

Burke had been involved in conversations for Peter Forsberg, but balked at trading any of his young stars such as Corey Perry or Ryan Getzlaf in exchange for the Swede.

"They're very short conversations," said Burke. "If anybody doesn't know how to swear they should sit in on one of these conversations because they'd know in a hurry.

"We have good young players in our group and we're not putting them in deals for rentals. It's that simple."

Pretty good soundbytes there. Anytime you hear about GMs having "short, profanity-laced conversations", you know the stakes are high. Burke has also made other great comments in his time. These are ranked in no particular order, but here are a few that I really liked.

a) "Why would we be interested in acquiring Fedorov? We already have one Fedorov too many!" - Burke's reaction when asked if the Canucks were interested in acquiring Fedor Fedorov's brother, Sergei Fedorov.

b) "The very fact that Al Strachan reported it, in my opinion, makes it extremely likely it has no factual basis what-so-ever. I deny it specifically and categorically. I have never discussed Brendan Morrison with Buffalo, I have never discussed Bryan Allen with Buffalo and I have not talked to Darcy Regier in three weeks. So I'm shocked that a respectable media outlet like Hockey Night in Canada would allow this garbage rumour-mongering to take place. I'm amazed that whoever produces that show would tolerate this." - Brian Burke responding to an Al Strachan report on HNIC that the Canucks were willing to deal Brendan Morrison and Bryan Allen for Mike Peca.

c) "After inviting us into the alley, you can't complain if you get kicked in the groin." - Brian Burke's comments on the possible arbitration case being made against Brendan Morrison in 2002.

d) "Right now, there are so few teams selling and so many buying. It's like the Discovery Channel. Seventy-five vultures in a tree waiting for one zebra to die. I'm not sure we're going to be able to make a deal." - Brian Burke on the trade deadline in 2002.

e) "Hockey isn’t a game in Canada: it’s a religion." - Teebz: clearly, Burke understands hockey.

f) "I don't have a use for the Vancouver Province because both my dogs are house broken." - Teebz: Burke has had documented problems in the past with Vancouver media.

g) "That's why Corey Perry doesn't get roughed up after whistles. That's why Ryan Getzlaf doesn't get punched in the head after he takes a shot at the net. We have a team that makes people accountable. That's never going to change as long as I'm here." - Brian Burke on his team's willingness to defend one another, leading to the highest number of major penalties this season.

h) "I said a flat 'no' both times, with a considerable amount of emphasis and profanity." - Brian Burke's comments regarding the contract negotiation with Mike Babcock.

Honestly, after reading these quotes again, he may rival Jeremy Roenick or Brett Hull for best soundbytes in hockey. That's about all for today. I just wanted to write about how Brian Burke makes me smile. And his "short, profanity-laced conversations" over the past couple of days have done that.

See you guys next time! Keep your sticks on the ice!

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