Anaheim Ducks owner Henry Samueli now has a lot more to worry about than the Maple Leafs coming after his general manager Brian Burke.
National Hockey League commissioner Gary Bettman suspended Samueli yesterday after he pleaded guilty to one count of making a false statement to the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission.
Sentencing by the U.S. Federal District Court is scheduled for Aug. 18 and Samueli could face seven-figure fines and imprisonment. The NHL will review Samueli's status after sentencing.
"I respect the decision made by commissioner Bettman and will abide by the terms of the suspension," Samueli said in a release.
During his suspension, Samueli can't be involved in any Ducks activities.
CEO and alternate governor Michael Schulman will be responsible for managing the club's day-to-day operations.
Burke was quick to nip talk that Samueli's problems could lead to his exit to take the GM's job in Toronto. The inability of Samueli and Burke to agree on a long-term extension beyond 2009 has fueled the Burke-to-Leafs talk for months.
"This doesn't change a thing," Burke told The Canadian Press of fulfilling the last season on his contract. "My admiration and respect for Henry Samueli is in no way reduced or diminished."
Schulman also insisted Burke was staying.
"I don't think this will have any impact on how he performs or anything for next season," Schulman told the Orange County Register yesterday.
"Sometime before his contract is over, we'll either agree to renew it or not renew it. If not, he'll still finish out the season, and we would seek another general manager at that time."
Susan Samueli, his wife and Ducks co-owner, will voluntarily step aside from her duties in support of Henry.
"While Mr. Samueli has been an exemplary owner, we hold NHL personnel to the highest standards and this plea requires the imposition of discipline under league rules,'' Bettman said in a statement.
Bettman already is mired in a difficult ownership issue after finding out Los Angeles Kings owner Philip Anschutz and the Minnesota Wild's Craig Leipold loaned controversial banker William (Boots) Del Biaggio a reported $17 million to help purchase the Nashville Predators.