April 25, 2007
Burke: No big dealDucks' GM opens up on firing
By TERRY JONES -- Sun Media
ANAHEIM, Calif. -- Brian Burke sat in his office bare of Vancouver Canucks memorabilia and said he still doesn't have a clue.
"You could give me sodium pentothal and ask me why I got fired and I couldn't tell you."
Normally, Burke doesn't talk during the playoffs. Not a word. And yesterday, inviting two Canadian columnists into his office, he said his playoff policy goes back into effect starting this morning. "My feeling is that after the trade deadline, what do I have to do with it? I have as much to do with what happens as you two do."
But this seems to be a different year. And this is definitely a different series with Burke going against the team he built in Vancouver and his GM protege Dave Nonis in Game 1 between the Canucks and Ducks here tonight.
The storyline is so obvious that he was forced, first, to do an NHL conference call.
"It's going to be a lot bigger story in Canada than it is here. To me it's a non-issue. All of the people that gassed me are gone.
"There's no bitterness that way. It was a devastating blow. But it's turned out to be a great blessing. I'm grateful that I got let go because now I get to work here.
"There's a storyline there because I worked there, a number of the players are players I brought in. Dave Nonis was my right-hand man and is my best friend," he said of the Canucks GM who added the final piece Vancouver never had, a big time goaltender.
"There's a story. But any bitterness or angst on my part isn't part of it."
But when the door opened to his office and he invited the two columnists to enter, there was some angst.
"When I got fired, after 30 days, I knew I was going to have to put it behind me or it was going to consume me. It was frustrating just before the lockout and they knew I wasn't going to be hired for 15 months." Burke was at the end of his contract. "I got two weeks' pay. That should make the mill workers feel better."
He said he'll return to Vancouver someday. "I have a love affair with the city. It's going to be home when it's over." He said he wasn't hoping for the Canucks to get here or wanting them not to get here. "One team is virtually impossible to score against and the other is the Big Teal Machine from San Jose. It's like picking your poison. A gun or a knife. I'm only sentimental about family, not about work."
As good a quote as there is in the business, he's been a spectacular failure at being Quoteless Brian so far these playoffs.
The Ducks GM, who Nonis at his going-away roast in Vancouver said was a guy who could get in a fight standing at a urinal, is coming off a hiss-cutter.
After the Minnesota series, Wild GM Doug Risebrough accused Burke of employing a thug in Brad May - who took a three-game suspension for punching out Kim Johnsson - and suggested it's Burke's MO without actually mentioning the name Todd Bertuzzi. Burke just couldn't keep his playoff lip zipped when he heard that.
"This is embarrassing to Doug Risebrough. He started whining after Game 1, they whined after Game 2, they whined after Game 3, they whined after Game 4, and now they're whining after Game 5. If they had forced a Game 6, I'm sure they would have whined after that. I thought all the good 'wines' were in California, but I guess they come from Minnesota. I'm appalled at the bellyaching."
Burke isn't likely to have a Risebrough-type go with Nonis, though.
"Not a chance. My daughter is his goddaughter," he said. "My relationship goes back a long way. I hired Dave when I was an assistant GM in Vancouver, and then I took him to the NHL front office with me. I brought him back to Vancouver. I have a lot of admiration and respect for him. That won't change. I sent Dave an e-mail after they won last night congratulating him.
"I don't know if I'm responsible for the nucleus there. Dave rebuilt the defence, and getting Willie Mitchell there was a great move. And he got the best goalie ever to wear a Canucks uniform," Burke said of Roberto Luongo.
"Dave made an excellent trade for Bertuzzi to Florida. It took a lot of jam for Dave to trade a player for an unsigned goaltender. I'm proud of what he has accomplished."
And one other thing. "This is as far as I want to see him get."