Flames coaches, players excited to work with new boss Brian Burke
Hartley, Ward, Monahan talk about new president of hockey operations
PENTICTON, B.C. — He is a stickler for detail. He loves to plan. And, by now, he’s got a well-grooved routine at the rink.
This is Bob Hartley. This is how he operates. So far.
But what happens going forward? Will Brian Burke’s addition to the Calgary Flames — to the peak of the team’s hockey pyramid — throw a wrench into the head coach’s day-to-day process?
Does it change how Hartley conducts his business?
“I can’t answer that question because I would be speculating,” Hartley replied Thursday morning after the rookies’ practice at the South Okanagan Events Centre — and shortly after getting off the phone with general manager Jay Feaster. “I’m a team guy. If we need to adjust because Jay and Brian Burke feel that way? I’m fine with that.
“First, Burkie will work with Jay — in Calgary, it’s all about teamwork — and then it’s going to trickle down to myself and my staff. I think it’s going to be great teamwork and I welcome the addition of Brian Burke.”
Well, no one in his right mind is going to stand there and bad-mouth the new boss, especially one with as much, uh, personality as Burke. However, Hartley did appear legitimately pleased by the announcement.
“It’s great news because we’re adding a Stanley Cup winner,” said Hartley. “Everywhere he’s been, he’s found a way to help the people around him. He’s a positive guy. There’s no grey areas with Brian Burke. The way Jay Feaster and I work, that’s perfect for us.
“We’re bringing in not only a very good hockey man, we’re bringing in a quality man. A guy that stands up. That’s perfect. We’re adding a very solid piece to our organization. He’s a fun guy to talk to. He’s open-minded. In many ways, we see the game the same way.”
Which is helpful.
Because the way Burke sees hockey is typically non-negotiable — hard-nosed. Meaning his work with this lot is cut out for him.
Last winter, the Flames had been one of the league’s lightest outfits, averaging less than 190 pounds. Twenty teams were assessed more penalty minutes than Calgary.
The Toronto Maple Leafs paced the NHL with 44 fights. The Flames scrapped 22 times.
“Burkie is known to like disciplined but tough hockey — no team comes to your building and dictates the way that they want to play the game,” said Hartley. “Just looking at this year’s draft, we drafted some big guys. They’re not easy to find. And last year we acquired (Brian) McGrattan.”
Everyone in the hockey world is up to speed of Burke’s on-ice expectations. They don’t change.
But, according to Abbotsford Heat coach Troy Ward, the club had already been trending towards truculence.
“One of the things that we’ve identified — through our management team and our scouting and the type of players that they’ve brought in — is we feel . . . that we’re harder,” said Ward. “We have harder skill than we’ve had in the past. It’s organization-wide — from Bob on down and through me and our team — that we have to play harder. We’re probably not going to be the biggest team in this (Young Stars Classic) tournament . . . but we always say that you’ve got to have the heart of a wrestler.
“Hopefully, we’ve got that mentality.”
Ward expects that, at the American Hockey League level, the Heat may be a bit beyond Burke’s reach. At least for this week.
“As it relates to us here? It doesn’t, I guess,” said Ward. “Really, our focus as we move forward as an organization and become a little bit younger than we’ve been in the past, it’s important that we really focus on these kids while we’re here right now.”
One of these kids happened to grow up near Toronto.
So he’s aware of Brian Burke and was tickled to hear the news.
“Yeah, it’s pretty awesome,” said Sean Monahan, a Brampton, Ont., native. “I mean, he’s done a lot in the hockey world. Obviously, I just found out a couple of seconds ago. I think it’s pretty cool to have him as part of the Calgary Flames.”
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