Photograph by: JEFF MCINTOSH/THE CANADIAN PRESS, Canada.com
CALGARY — The Calgary Flames are looking to Brian Burke to help with their rebuilding effort.
The longtime hockey executive has been named the team’s president of hockey operations, a new position that puts Burke in charge of what president Ken King termed the “sports side of the Calgary Flames.”
I'm very pleased and honoured to be joining the Flames!—
Brian Burke (@Burkie2020) September 05, 2013
Burke will report directly to King, while general manager Jay Feaster will now report to Burke.
It’s not a normal arrangement in the NHL, but is common in other sports, Burke pointed out during a news conference Thursday morning.
“This is a relatively new structure in professional hockey,” he said. “There are two teams in the NHL that have this type of management structure. There are a number of teams in the National Football League that do, a number of teams in Major League Baseball that do and a number of teams in the NBA that do. And it works effectively. And it’s going to work here.”
He stressed that he will not be taking on the role of general manager.
“I’m not the general manager of the Calgary Flames, Jay Feaster is,” Burke said. “Jay and I have been friends a long time, we met this morning, we talked about how to make this work, we’re both committed to winning.”
Brian Burke in Calgary. The West just got funner. And louder.—
Cam Cole (@rcamcole) September 05, 2013
Brian Burke says he'll have a background role. Times done changes.—
Bruce Arthur (@bruce_arthur) September 05, 2013
The Flames are in rebuilding mode after missing the playoffs for the last four years.
“I think I can provide some help but I think Jay’s got great ability,” Burke said. “He’s already made some important steps towards fixing things here and it’s my pleasure and honour to be able to work with him.”
Jay Feaster timeline: Burke busy w/ Team USA through Olympics. After that the trap door gets oiled. Coach might go first.—
bruce dowbiggin (@dowbboy) September 05, 2013
King said the hiring of Burke was a plan that was in the works for many months, as the team started with some 60 potential candidates for the job.
“Both Jay and I feel very strongly that Brian will bring an added dimension of experience, guidance and mentorship that will add greatly to the progress that Jay has already made to improve our team,” King said, adding that Feaster has been involved in the process from the beginning.
Burke’s contract with the Flames doesn’t have a set term, but is instead an open-ended work agreement.
The 58-year-old was fired as president and general manager of the Toronto Maple Leafs in January. He had been working as a part-time scout with the Anaheim Ducks since February.
Burke has had a lengthy career behind the scenes in the NHL.
After graduating Harvard Law School in 1981, he became a player agent until 1987 when Vancouver Canucks general manager Pat Quinn asked him to become the director of hockey operations for the franchise.
Burke held that post for five years, until the 1992-93 season when he became the GM of the Hartford Whalers. He stayed in Connecticut for a year before moving to the NHL’s head office, becoming commissioner Gary Bettman’s executive vice-president and director of hockey operations.
In 1998, Burke returned to Vancouver to become the GM of the Canucks. He drafted several key players, including superstar twins Henrik and Daniel Sedin, as well as centre Ryan Kesler. Team management elected to not renew Burke’s contract after the 2003-04 season.
After spending time as a TV analyst, Burke returned to management, becoming the GM of the Anaheim Mighty Ducks in 2005-06. He won his first Stanley Cup the next season.
He stepped down from the Ducks in November 2008 and two weeks later was hired by the Maple Leafs.
But the Leafs never made the post-season during Burke’s tenure as Toronto remained the team with the longest playoff drought in the league. The Maple Leafs finally returned to the playoffs this year under new GM Dave Nonis, who replaced Burke.
“There was a lot that needed to be done in Toronto that took longer than I thought,” Burke said Thursday.
But he believes the Flames are on the right path.
“I think Jay has already taken many steps to rebuild,” said Burke, adding that he thought Flames had the best draft of any team in June.
A dual citizen of the United States and Canada, Burke’s on the board of directors for Rugby Canada and is the director of player personnel for the American men’s hockey team at the 2014 Sochi Olympics.
Also Thursday, the Flames promoted John Bean from CFO and senior vice-president, finance and administration to chief operating officer.
Here is a look back at our archived live blog of the press conference in all its truculent glory from Calgary Saddledome.