In his farewell press conference Saturday, Brian Burke was bitter and bombastic, brash and to the point. He was combative. He was larger than life. Three days after getting knifed in the back by MLSE’s Board of Directors, Burke was everything we’ve come to expect of him. He embodied the spirit that leads one to either love him or hate. With the blustery Irishman, There is no middle ground.
Burke’s presser was the most anticipated hockey event to take place within the confines of the Air Canada Centre this season. That speaks volumes about the darkness of the NHL lockout, but it also reflects the fascination media and fans have with Burke.
With that in mind, here are 7 important facts we learned during today’s gathering.
1. Burke didn’t see his firing coming: He was on his way to the airport when the Board called him and summoned him to a meeting. He had zero inkling he was about to be canned. “There’s sometimes when you get fired and you see the vultures circling and you understand it’s coming,” said Burke. “You’re not sure when you’re going to drop dead in the desert, but it’s coming and you can see the vultures. This one here was like a two-by-four upside the head to me.”
2. He’s still waiting for a legitimate explantion on the timing: Burke isn’t satisfied with how the Board explained the timing of his firing. Sounds as though we’ll never know why he was let go only days before the beginning of the season.
3. Losing + personality conflict = Dismissal: This much has been speculated as true, but Burke confirmed it. He also believes winning would have forced the Board to overlook their dislike for how he conducts himself. “If you win enough games you can be as obnoxious as you want to be,” he said.
4. He won’t be involved in hockey operations: Burke said he approached Board member Dale Lastman about being an advisor on the hockey side. The Board would have none of it. From now on, he’ll advise the Board, which probably means telling them which side to kiss his rear end on.
5. Team motto is “no complaints, no excuses”: Really? No GM in the NHL does more complaining than Burke. Everyone and everything, it seems, was out to get him and the team. He even used the goaltending excuse in the presser, insisting things would have turned out better last season had James Reimer not been injured.
6. He wants to be a GM again…soon: See No. 4. He won’t be content to cash his paycheck and keep his mouth shut. Just remember he says he left Anaheim to be closer to his family, which is split now between Toronto and Boston. He’ll have some explaining to do if he relocates to a far-off locale.
7. He has a hate-on for Steve Simmons: The Toronto Sun columnist has been one of Burke’s most out-spoken critics in recent years. Surely, we didn’t think their relationship was good, but Burke confirmed it is non-existent these days when he expressed his delight that he never has to talk to Simmons again.