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Brian Burke is the most misunderstood man in hockey – The Globe and Mail



“I don’t have to be politically correct. If people don’t like me they can turn the TV off,” says Brian Burke, hockey analyst for Rogers Sportsnet and former president and general manager of the Toronto Maple Leafs.

Fred Lum/The Globe and Mail

A book about his dead son rests atop a wood coffee table. On a shelf nearby, there are pieces of artwork crafted long ago by his children’s hands. There are hundreds of family photos arranged in neat piles in the dining room. And there are binoculars for watching birds, and a book to help identify the cardinals and chickadees and juncos and woodpeckers that visit the feeders in Brian Burke’s backyard.

He was the architect of five hard-nosed teams as a general manager in the National Hockey League and still enjoys it when players drop their gloves. He studied history at Providence College, earned a law degree from Harvard, drives a Harley for relaxation, owns a collection of 140 carved wooden ducks, and couldn’t give a whit if he offends viewers as a hockey analyst for Rogers Sportsnet.

“I’m not running for office,” Burke says as he settles in for an interview at his home in Toronto. He has a book, Burke’s Law, A Life in Hockey, that was released this week. “I am not kissing babies. I don’t have to be politically correct. If people don’t like me they can turn the TV off. But what they are going to get, if they leave the TV on, is an unvarnished opinion of what just happened, and I think people appreciate that.”

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He is 65 and played as a winger in college for Lou Lamoriello but never made it to the NHL. Nevertheless, he likens himself to hockey’s Forrest Gump. He’s done nearly every job there is to do in hockey and been in the middle of every situation the game could throw at him.

He worked as a deputy general manager under Pat Quinn and for Gary Bettman for five years as the league’s senior vice-president and director of hockey operations. In that position, he also handed out discipline. As for coaches, he hired Joel Quenneville, Randy Carlyle, and fired Mike Keenan. In Hartford, he drafted Chris Pronger, and in Vancouver he snatched up the Sedin twins. In Toronto, he triggered the blockbuster deal that brought Phil Kessel to the Maple Leafs. He was in the room during negotiations that led to two lockouts, and he won a Stanley Cup.

Brian Burke, left, and Phil Kessel during a press conference in Toronto in 2009.

Darren Calabrese/The Canadian Press

“My legacy would be that I was progressive in how the game was played,” Burke says. “I like old-time hockey but I supported rule changes to make the game faster, and supported all of the concussion protocols. I made my players do more in the community than any other GM, and I did more in the community than any other GM.

“I think I made a difference in every city I worked in, and I think I made my players make a difference. I’m really proud of the way my players behaved off the ice, [and on it] we played hard, but whistle to whistle. I never had a rash of suspensions. We fought a lot but that is fine. And I sold tickets, and in our business there are a lot of teams that don’t sell them.”

He has six children between two marriages, and for 11 years, he flew between Vancouver and Anaheim to Boston every weekend to visit them. It was a promise made, and a promise kept. Aside from travelling to see them, he has taken them on vacations to Africa, Italy, Paris and London.

“I’ve been an attentive dad, not perfect but attentive,” Burke says.

After his son, Brendan, came out in 2009, his father became a gay-rights activist.

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Brian Burke with his son Brendan.

“Most of the homophobic language athletes use is reflexive,” Burke says. “It is not making any judgment at all about a guy’s sexuality. A guy hits you from the behind and you pick up the biggest rock you can find. You call him a three-syllable word. I did it. Everyone did. I am embarrassed by it, and I don’t do it any more.

“It has to stop.”

After a speaking engagement, someone in the audience invariably comes up afterward and announces they disliked him previously, but have now changed their mind.

In response, he is stone-faced. Few people are as comfortable in their own skin.

“My ex-wife once said, ‘You had a chance to make a friend there. Just say thanks,’” he says. “I said, ‘I didn’t give a shit what he thought yesterday and I still don’t today.’”

Brian Burke sits on the couch and talks about his life. As always, his tie is undone, and his silver hair is brushed back. He chuckles when asked if that is part of his TV brand.

“I am not sophisticated enough to have devised a brand,” he says.

The loose and dangling tie dates to when he worked under Quinn. Burke would arrive at the office every morning at 6, dressed in jeans and a T-shirt. After an early meeting with his boss, he would work out in a gym in the arena, and then quickly dress in work clothes.

“I was always in a hurry, and never tied my tie,” he says. “I wouldn’t tie it until I had to, sometimes not until just before the national anthem at night. Then finally out of laziness I decided to not to tie it at all.”

He changed his hair style in 2013 after he was fired by the Maple Leafs.

“The lady who cut my hair told me I had looked like a cop my whole life, and suggested I try it slicked back,” he says. “It took a few iterations to figure out, but this is what we ended up with.”

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A cheerful painting of a young boy skating on a pond hangs on the living room wall. There are a handful of duck decoys on top of a bookcase. There is a piece of concrete from a memorial to soldiers killed in Kandahar. He once visited troops in Afghanistan. There is a collection of miniature hockey players received as a gift from the Russian goalie Vladislav Tretiak.

Brian Burke leaves a press conference after speaking about his dismissal as general manager of the Maple Leafs.


Over the years, Burke has occasionally battled with broadcasters and journalists. He mostly doesn’t care what anyone says or writes about him, but he drops the mitts when they say something he sees as untrue about one of his coaches or players.

He was thin-skinned early on, and then received some advice from Pat Quinn.

“He told me to stop listening to those people,” he says. “He said the people that matter to me I should be able to count on two hands, my family and my closest friends. That has been my philosophy ever since.”

He began writing the book, which is co-authored by the Canadian sports journalist Stephen Brunt, more than two years ago. It took him back through achievements, failure and heartbreak.

“It made me reflect on who I was and how I behaved,” he says. “Hopefully I am more mature and smarter now. I think people will read it and see there is another side to me and maybe think I am a nicer person than they perceived. But that’s not why I wrote it.”

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Burke’s Law will open and change minds. It is packed with warmth and grudges – he names names – and little known stories from his past, including the fact that, as Quinn’s assistant, he nixed a potential trade of Wayne Gretzky from the Oilers to the Canucks. Along with that, the book is also a study in human frailty.

One of Burke’s biggest regrets is that he has had two failed marriages.

“I never struck the right balance,” he says. “I put parenting and work ahead of being a husband and that cost me.”

Of his new book, Burke says, “I think people will read it and see there is another side to me and maybe think I am a nicer person than they perceived. But that’s not why I wrote it.”

Fred Lum/The Globe and Mail

Brian Burke began watching birds as a kid when his family lived on a pond in Boston. He has carried a love for them his entire life. He gives bird feeders as gifts, spends a fortune on birdseed and other gear, and has donated more than $150,000 to Ducks Unlimited.

He had a welder build a platform in the backyard upon which he hangs four bird feeders, one containing suet, two with mixed seeds and another with peanuts.

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“Let’s watch,” he says. “We should get something good.”

A red-breasted nuthatch lands and grabs a peanut, flies away to a tree to eat it, and then returns again and again. A chickadee visits, and then an English sparrow.

“I feed them all year,” Burke says. “It’s especially important in winter. They can eat more food here in five minutes than they can find on the ground all day. It helps keep them alive.”

In the book, he writes about Brendan’s death. He was 21 when he died in a car accident during a blizzard in February of 2010. When his father heard, he collapsed. As Brendan’s casket was lowered into the ground on a crisp winter day, Brian thought, “He is going to be so cold in there.”

A few months ago, Burke went into the basement to tidy up a bit and found a box full of family photos he had forgotten about. He brought them upstairs and sorted them into piles for each of his kids. Then he found a second box and added those pictures, too.

There are two piles for Brendan. They sit on the table, mostly untouched.

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“When I started looking at them, it put me in the sewer,” Burke says. “I still haven’t been able to bring myself to look at them.”

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Byfield named to Hockey Canada WJC select camp roster –



The camp will be held at Westerner Park Centrium from Nov. 16-Dec. 13 in Red Deer, Alberta.

Alexis Lafreniere, chosen No. 1 by the New York Rangers in the 2020 draft, was not one of the 46 invitees that includes 26 forwards, 15 defensemen and five goalies. The forward played for Canada in the 2019 and 2020 WJC, and he was named the tournament most valuable player in 2020.

Lafreniere could still be added to the team; the Rangers want Lafreniere to attend NHL training camp, but Hockey Canada chief executive officer Tom Renney said more clarity on Lafreniere’s status is expected in about 10 days.

“(Rangers general manager) Jeff Gorton and I had a good chat,” Renney said, “and [I] gave Jeff the opportunity to understand our timetable of what might be coming up with respect to this camp … and well beyond that. With that being said, Jeff was certainly open-minded to the idea, was hoping that his player would have the opportunity to join the NHL team in New York as of now, actually, to begin skating with the club.” 

The event is the final step in picking the team that will play for Canada at the 2021 IIHF World Junior Championship. The tournament, to be held Dec. 25 to Jan. 5, 2021, will be played entirely at Rogers Place in Edmonton without fans in attendance in a secure-zone bubble, similar to what the NHL used for the Stanley Cup Playoffs. The IIHF initially was going to utilize Edmonton and Red Deer, Alberta as joint hosts.

“I think having an opportunity to be together for 51 days will be special,” Canada coach Andre Tourigny said. “Fortunately for everyone, we’ll have time to be really well prepared so we’re really grateful for it. the coaches spent so many hours on video for scouting and getting prepared. Close to 90 players had been scouting through video and I think we’re really excited and really confident with the group we will have in Red Deer. We can’t wait to get into the bubble.

“This has never happened in the past where Team Canada had the chance to meet together for this long (in a selection camp) and to grow their structure and to grow their chemistry for that long. I think it will be unique, and it will be an outstanding opportunity for us.”

Byfield, a forward, is one of six returnees who helped Canada finish first at the 2020 WJC, along with defensemen Bowen Byram (Colorado Avalanche, 2019 NHL Draft, No. 4) and Jamie Drysdale (Anaheim Ducks, 2020, No. 6) and forwards Dylan Cozens (Buffalo Sabres, 2019, No. 7), Connor McMichael (Washington Capitals, 2019, No. 25) and Dawson Mercer (New Jersey Devils, 2020, No. 18).

To ensure the health and safety of all participants and the community, Hockey Canada will be adhering to enhanced measures around testing and team protocols.

“Although this has been a difficult year for our athletes and staff, we are excited to unveil the 46 players who will compete for a spot on Canada’s National Junior Team at the 2021 IIHF World Junior Championship,” said Scott Salmond, senior vice-president of national teams for Hockey Canada. “We know our athletes are excited for the opportunity to defend gold on home ice this year, and we expect a highly competitive selection camp with a number of difficult decisions to be made when it comes time to select the players who will wear the Maple Leaf in Edmonton in December.”

The selection camp will include practices, three intra-squad games and six games against a team of U SPORTS all-stars before the team enters the bubble in Edmonton in preparation for the 2021 WJC. The camp will take place in a bubble and will be closed to the public and media.

Canada will be in Group A, along with Finland, Switzerland, Slovakia and Germany. Group B will include the United States, Russia, Sweden, Austria and the Czech Republic. Canada plays the opening game of the round-robin portion against Germany on Dec. 26. 

The top four teams in each group will play in the quarterfinals Jan. 2. The semifinals are Jan. 4, and the championship and third-place games are Jan. 5.

Canada, which defeated Russia 4-3 in the 2020 championship game at Ostravar Arena in Ostrava, Czech Republic, finished first at the event for the 18th time. 

Vancouver (Western Hockey League) coach Michael Dyck and Saskatoon (WHL) coach Mitch Love will be assistants under Tourigny, the coach of Ottawa of the Ontario Hockey League. Love and Tourigny were assistants to coach Dale Hunter at the 2020 WJC.


GOALIES: Brett Brochu, London, OHL (2021 draft eligible); Dylan Garand, Kamloops, WHL (New York Rangers); Taylor Gauthier, Prince George, WHL (2021 draft eligible); Triston Lennox, Saginaw, OHL (2021 draft eligible); Devon Levi, Northeastern, HE (Florida Panthers)

DEFENSEMEN: Justin Barron, Halifax, QMJHL (Colorado Avalanche); Bowen Byram, Vancouver, WHL (Colorado Avalanche); Lukas Cormier, Charlottetown, QMJHL (Vegas Golden Knights); Jamie Drysdale, Erie, OHL (Anaheim Ducks); Kaiden Guhle, Prince Albert, WHL (Montreal Canadiens); Thomas Harley, Mississauga, OHL (Dallas Stars); Daemon Hunt, Moose Jaw, WHL (Minnesota Wild); Kaedan Korczak, Kelowna, WHL (Vegas Golden Knights); Mason Millman, Saginaw OHL (Philadelphia Flyers); Ryan O’Rourke, Sault Ste. Marie, OHL (Minnesota Wild); Owen Power, Michigan, BIG10 (2021 draft eligible); Matthew Robertson, Edmonton, WHL (New York Rangers); Braden Schneider, Brandon, WHL (New York Rangers); Donovan Sebrango, Kitchener, OHL (Detroit Red Wings); Jordan Spence, Moncton, QMJHL (Los Angeles Kings)

FORWARDS: Adam Beckman, Spokane, WHL (Minnesota Wild); Mavrik Bourque, Shawinigan, QMJHL (Dallas Stars); Quinton Byfield, Sudbury, OHL (Los Angeles Kings); Graeme Clarke, Ottawa, OHL (New Jersey Devils); Kirby Dach, Saskatoon, WHL (Chicago Blackhawks); Tyson Foerster, Barrie, OHL (Philadelphia Flyers); Gage Goncalves, Everett, WHL (Tampa Bay Lightning); Ridly Greig, Brandon, WHL (Ottawa Senators); Dylan Holloway, Wisconsin, BIG10 (Edmonton Oilers); Seth Jarvis, Portland, WHL (Carolina Hurricanes); Peyton Krebs, Winnipeg, WHL (Vegas Golden Knights); Hendrix Lapierre, Chicoutimi, QMJHL (Washington Capitals); Connor McMichael, London, OHL (Washington Capitals); Dawson Mercer, Chicoutimi, QMJHL (New Jersey Devils); Alex Newhook, Boston College, HE (Colorado Avalanche); Jakob Pelletier, Val-d’Or, QMJHL (Calgary Flames); Cole Perfetti, Saginaw, OHL (Winnipeg Jets); Samuel Poulin, Sherbrooke, QMJHL (Pittsburgh Penguins); Jack Quinn, Ottawa, OHL (Buffalo Sabres); Jamieson Rees, Sarnia, OHL (Carolina Hurricanes); Cole Schwindt, Mississauga, OHL (Florida Panthers); Xavier Simoneau, Drummondville, QMJHL (2021 draft eligible); Ryan Suzuki, Saginaw, OHL (Carolina Hurricanes); Philip Tomasino, Oshawa, OHL (Nashville Predators); Shane Wright, Kingston, OHL (2022 draft eligible); Connor Zary, Kamloops, WHL (Calgary Flames)

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Jahnke: Fantasy football reactions from the Falcons' TNF win over the Panthers | Fantasy Football News, Rankings and Projections – Pro Football Focus



Thursday Night Football featured two division rivals who played just 18 days ago. The Falcons dominated time of possession most of the game, but their drives kept ending in field goals, which kept the game close. The game featured plenty of stars in the fantasy football world, but none of them had a great game — some performances were quite disappointing.

As always, this collection of fantasy reactions will include snap counts for skill players on each team, along with notes on players who saw their fantasy stocks rise or fall during the action — and how we should react to anything new.

Atlanta Falcons at Carolina Panthers

Winner: WR Curtis Samuel, Carolina Panthers

Samuel had the winner spot locked up early in the second quarter after scoring his second touchdown of the game. He ended up with three carries for 23 yards and a touchdown, along with four catches for 31 yards and another TD. Samuel’s fantasy stock was on the rise earlier in the week after the release of Seth Roberts, which helped lead to more playing time for Samuel. While this game was a step in the right direction, Christian McCaffrey will return soon and command a ton of touches. There is the possibility McCaffrey and Mike Davis seeing the field at the same time, which could cut into both Samuel’s playing time and his carries.

Loser: WR Russell Gage, Atlanta Falcons

Gage was held to two catches on three targets for 25 yards. With Ridley missing two-thirds of the game, this should have been an opportunity for Gage to have a bigger role in the offense. He had seen his targets rise in recent weeks, leading to back-to-back games with over 50 yards. Instead, Ridley’s injury led to more targets for Julio Jones and Hayden Hurst. Even if Ridley misses time, it would be hard to trust Gage with how few targets he had in this game and earlier in the season when Jones was out.

Waiver Wire Target: RB Brian Hill, Atlanta Falcons

Hill has spent the season as the No. 2 running back behind Todd Gurley II. Coming into Thursday night, he had put up a higher yards per carry and more than double the yards per route run. This week, Hill saw his biggest role in the offense in over a month. Despite having seven fewer carries than Gurley, Hill ended up with nine more rushing yards. He saw three targets and was the only halfback targeted in the Falcons offense. He only had two catches for nine yards, but if he continues to outplay Gurley it wouldn’t be surprising to see Hill’s playing time continue to rise.

Injury: WR Calvin Ridley, Atlanta Falcons

Ridley left the game early in the second quarter with an ankle injury. He was off to a strong start with three catches on four targets for 42 yards before the injury. The Falcons have struggled to keep all three of their wide receivers healthy, with both Julio Jones and Russell Gage missing time in recent weeks. While Olamide Zaccheaus typically replaced Jones, and Brandon Powell replaced Gage last week, it was Christian Blake primarily replacing Ridley Thursday night. Blake caught both of his targets for 14 yards. If Ridley were to miss any time, Blake would be a good waiver wire target. He might not be someone worth starting right away, but there would be high upside in the Falcons offense.

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A way-too-early look at Canada’s 2021 World Junior Championships roster –



Hockey Canada announced a list of 47 players expected to participate in a 51-day evaluation camp en route to the 2021 World Junior Championships in Edmonton. Canada will put its title defence on the line, playing in Group A alongside Germany, Slovakia, Switzerland and Finland.

Canada will open the tournament on Dec. 26 against Germany, with the marquee preliminary round match-up against Finland on New Year’s eve.

At first glance, this roster is extremely deep. There are 26 first round picks and seven returnees from last year’s gold medal winning team. The list of 26 includes Kirby Dach, whom Hockey Canada learned it was getting on loan from the Chicago Blackhawks on Thursday.

One notable name not on the list was Alexis Lafreniere, the top pick by the New York Rangers in the 2020 draft. According to Hockey Canada president Tom Renney, talks are ongoing with Rangers general manager Jeff Gorton as to the participation of Lafreniere in either the camp or once Team Canada enters the bubble. We should know more in the next 10 days.

This camp will be challenging in that most of the players haven’t played a game since March. Nine players named to the camp from the QMJHL have played a varying number of games, as the only one of three CHL leagues currently on the ice.

In making things as safe as possible, each player and staff member will be tested for COVID-19 prior to leaving for camp, then tested regularly once camp begins. The evaluation camp will start on Nov. 16 in Red Deer, Alta. It is expected that the final roster of 25 players will enter the Edmonton bubble on Dec. 13.

The IIHF has made for an allowance of two extra players on the roster due to the pandemic. Canada will be allowed to carry 3 goalies and 22 skaters into the Edmonton bubble.

Discussion is ongoing with U Sports to play six exhibition games — with two pre-tournament games vs. Sweden and Russia — once Canada gets into the bubble.

Here’s a way-too-early-look at what Canada’s final roster might be (the “*” indicates a returnee from the 2020 team):

Goalies (3)

Dylan Garand

Taylor Gauthier

Tristan Lennox

Synopsis: Goaltending is the biggest concern for this team. The position is wide open with no returnees from last year, as Joel Hofer, Nico Daws and Olivier Rodrigue have all aged-out.

Gauthier is the elder statesman of the group. He’s a right-catch tender who is extremely athletic and he’s a Hlinka-Gretzky gold medalist. If Gauthier can make the saves he’s supposed to make, he should be the starter. Garand has been brilliant for upstart Kamloops. He’s a monster competitor, who is technically sound. He is also very good at playing the puck. The third goalie is anyone’s guess. Lennox has the size, Brett Brochu has come out of nowhere and Devon Levi is extremely confident and has put up remarkable numbers at every level.

Defence (8)

*Bowen Byram

*Jamie Drysdale

Thomas Harley

Braden Schneider

Ryan O’Rourke

Kaiden Guhle

Jordan Spence

Kaedan Korczak

Synopsis: The defence corps provides a nice mix of experience, size and grit. Byram and Drysdale should anchor each of the top-two pairings, with both of them likely to see significant time on the power play.

Schneider, a Rangers’ first-rounder, was close to making it last year. He skates well, moves pucks efficiently and has great physical presence. The makeup of this group allows there to be a puck-mover paired with a complimentary or more of a stay-at-home type. O’Rourke, Guhle, and Korczak are all big and nasty, while Spence is a blend of Byram and Drysdale. This group is also split evenly between left and right shots.

Forwards (14)

*Kirby Dach

*Quinton Byfield

*Connor McMichael

*Dylan Cozens

*Dawson Mercer

Adam Beckman

Gage Goncalves

Peyton Krebs

Hendrix Lapierre

Alex Newhook

Jakob Pelletier

Cole Perfetti

Philip Tomasino

Shane Wright

TBD Alexis Lafreniere

Synopsis: The strength of this team is up front. If Dach plays and Lafreniere is added before the Dec. 13 cutoff date, Canada will possess the deepest group of forwards in the tournament.

There’s plenty of size down the middle with Dach, Byfield and Cozens. It will be a dogfight for the 4C position. Lafreniere would solidify the top left wing position, while an abundance of options remain, with many natural centres being forced to the wing.

McMichael snipes and Cozens can use his size and speed, while I expect big things from Byfield in an elevated role. Mercer can play anywhere in the lineup. The competition for forward spots will be intense.

Beckman led the WHL in scoring last season. Newhook was one of the best players at camp last year. Wright will not only have earned his way on the team, but he will be able to carry this experience forward. Pelletier is super slick and the long layoff has served him well. There will also be plenty of options for the power forward type in Greig, Holloway and Poulin.

Perfetti used last year’s snub as motivation and he’s poised to make the team this year. Goncalves had a breakout year in Everett last year, while Krebs spent time in the Vegas bubble. Tomasino has speed to burn and he’s a right shot.

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