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GM Meetings: Brian Burke – “I got dirt kicked in my face again”

Mar 12, 2012, 4:46 PM EDT

Brian Burke AP

Toronto Maple Leafs GM Brian Burke got to where he is by thinking in a bold way, but bigger ideas aren’t always easy to make universal.

Burke has been pushing a “bear hug” rule for quite some now, which essentially would allow a checking player to “hug” an opponent while hitting him along the boards to brace for the impact. The negative side, naturally, is that the attacking player would undoubtedly be engaging in a form of obstruction in the process.

Perhaps that negative side is too much of a gray area for GMs to stomach, because Burke told James Mirtle that it didn’t work out. In fact, he was customarily dramatic about it.

“Bear hug had no support – no chance,” Burke said. “I got dirt kicked in my face again.”

Such an emo description makes me imagine other general managers making spit takes when he brings up the idea, even if they probably just voted “Nay” while shrugging their shoulders. (Kevin Lowe would have been more difficult about it, but he’s not the Edmonton Oilers GM anymore.)

The pros

However general managers reacted, there’s a method to Burke’s madness. Hits from behind are among the most dangerous in the game, but you cannot make them universally illegal without putting a team’s defense at a profound disadvantage. Burke’s idea would allow defenders to defend against the glass without getting suspended (or hurting someone badly).

The cons

Again, though, the gray area comes in when they were “hugging” to help someone not get injured and when they were just trying to slow an opponent who gained some ground down low or in the zone.


Where do you stand on the rule, then? It might be quite some time if GMs ever approve of such a measure, but it doesn’t mean the hockey world cannot debate its merits in the mean time.

  1. 1943mrmojorisin1971 - Mar 12, 2012 at 4:55 PM

    If there’s a chance it will help reduce hits from behind you’d think it would be worth a try and maybe have a little support. I’m sure most players and fans would be fine with a little bit of obstruction happening if it helps reduce injuries.

  2. travishenryskid - Mar 12, 2012 at 5:08 PM

    Sounds like a terrible idea. It’s pretty simple, just don’t hit a guy when you see his numbers. And why do we need to help the defense even more? We’re already in another dead puck era, they should be taking away defensive advantages, not adding them.

    • 1943mrmojorisin1971 - Mar 12, 2012 at 6:04 PM

      The idea of not hitting a guy in his numbers is simple, but players keep doing it.

      There’s also no need to be reducing “defensive advantages” just because 7-6 isn’t the score of every game. If you want to see non-stop scoring go watch basketball instead.

      • travishenryskid - Mar 12, 2012 at 6:40 PM

        The fact that scoring has gone down every year since the lockout suggests that the game that the league envisioned is gone. And I don’t need non-stop scoring, but it seems that there are more garbage goals and fewer skillful goals than ever before, or at least since the lockout. The league that wanted to promote speed and skill has disappeared. Blocked shots is now a big time stat. Enough said.

      • 1943mrmojorisin1971 - Mar 12, 2012 at 7:36 PM

        I’m not following your argument. You want blocked shots taken out of the game? The NHL seems pretty good to me right now, there’s no need to legislate defense out of it for the sake of more pretty goals. That’s just ridiculous to suggest.

  3. takingbovadasmoney - Mar 12, 2012 at 5:16 PM

    Burke is such a dou¢ebag.

    • gbiscottagecheesefatties - Mar 12, 2012 at 7:37 PM

      takes one to know one

      ahh, just kidding ya 😀

      I don’t mind him, I like the fact that he is willing to voice his opinion and doesn’t care about what the media thinks. I mean you don’t find many that are ready to throw themselves to the wolves. Man has a backbone and I respect him for that. weather or not he is a great GM is still to be seen

  4. firstandonlywarning - Mar 12, 2012 at 5:32 PM

    Terrible idea from a terrible GM

    Legalized holding
    No thanks, Ill keep Pandora’s box closed

    Find a better way

    • 1943mrmojorisin1971 - Mar 12, 2012 at 5:59 PM

      In that case let’s hear your suggestions.

      • firstandonlywarning - Mar 12, 2012 at 10:09 PM

        Change the gear, there is no need for guys to have the armor they wear these days.

        Bring back the 2 line pass before allowing holding in the name of safety.

        No touch icing

        Allow goalies to play the puck again

      • gbiscottagecheesefatties - Mar 12, 2012 at 11:41 PM

        major thumbs down for the two line pass. I wish I could slap ya for even saying it… the two line pass days sucked! PERIOD!

    • kitshky - Mar 12, 2012 at 6:14 PM

      I don’t hate the idea, but that’s why you can’t love it either. Already too many grey areas / just plain ignored rules in this game.

    • 1943mrmojorisin1971 - Mar 12, 2012 at 10:17 PM

      Changing the gear is a good idea but doesn’t deal with hits from behind. Same goes for bringing back the red line, something that should absolutely not be on the table.

      Those ideas don’t really address hits from behind and aren’t even your own suggestions.

      • firstandonlywarning - Mar 12, 2012 at 10:30 PM

        Aren’t even your own suggestions?

        What is required for you?
        Original ideas only?

        If it’s been suggested before, you will have something to say about it?

        You’re an idiot

      • 1943mrmojorisin1971 - Mar 12, 2012 at 10:35 PM

        Apparently I struck a nerve. Those are all ideas on the table at these meetings and they don’t address hits from behind directly. I just thought, based on your first comment, you might have some more enlightening ideas than those already being discussed. Guess not.

      • blomfeld - Mar 12, 2012 at 11:28 PM

        “You’re an idiot” ? …

        well obviously friend you can’t be an LA Kings fan with talk like that ? … so whatever you are, kindly do us all a favor and “re-visit” your values … and while you’re at it, please enjoy this little “catchy” number by the King …

  5. takingbovadasmoney - Mar 12, 2012 at 6:10 PM

    They keep doing, and even if they pass this rule they still will.

  6. crusty14 - Mar 12, 2012 at 6:19 PM

    It’s easy to say just don’t hit a guy in the numbers, but in essence, when the speed of the game is what it is, it’s far more difficult to let up than you would think. I also believe many players turn their backs at the last second to draw penalties as well.

    The bear hug may not be the answer, as it is a sort of legalized holding, but perhaps it is something to look at. Maybe you could be allowed to hold the player up for a second or two, but any longer would be a penalty. Unfortunately, something like this puts a lot up to a refs discretion, but something has to be done to avoid all the injuries resulting from plays like this.

    • travishenryskid - Mar 12, 2012 at 6:30 PM

      You talk about the speed of the game making it difficult to pull up but you think they are going to be able to react quickly enough to put on a bear hug? IMO, you are talking out of both sides of your mouth. If anything, this would increase injuries because players will feel the need to engage a player with his back turned up along the wall.

  7. pavelfitzgerald - Mar 12, 2012 at 6:44 PM

    Players need to wise up & not turn their backs at the last second. I’ve seen sooo many guys hurt this year who turn their back at the last second to “protect the puck” & put themselves in an awful vulnerable position. Players will keep doing it until someone gets paralyzed or killed. It’s sad but it’s true

    • skypilot5973 - Mar 13, 2012 at 9:41 PM

      Make it a penalty to turn your back to an incoming player. There’s no logical or natural reason for a player to turn his back toward an opposing player other than to try and draw a penalty. It would be similar to the penalty they have now for diving. If the ref thinks you took a dive to draw a penalty for the opposition, you get two in the box. If you turn your back, you get two in the box. That way, the defenceman who’s going to get hit is forced to make a play with the puck and take the hit, just like old school style.

  8. botlecap - Mar 12, 2012 at 7:28 PM

    i think a hug and release rule would work. force players to release the hit/hugged player immediately after contact with the boards. also stipulate that you must hug from behind and not just allow any kind of general hold.

  9. nsmiff87 - Mar 12, 2012 at 7:45 PM

    Terrible idea ?

  10. bcjim - Mar 12, 2012 at 8:05 PM

    Just do what the NFL is doing….anything and everything to help offense.

    Determining the team best able to gouge a puck out of the corner scrum and luckbox it into the net is NOT my idea of entertainment.

    START CALLING INTERFERENCE and HOLDING, as they are supposed to.

    • firstandonlywarning - Mar 12, 2012 at 10:11 PM

      Players no longer being allowed to hook and holding is part of the reason guys are able to gain speed and destroy each other.

      You must be new to hockey because they call interference and holding infinitely more now than they did 10 years ago.

      • bcjim - Mar 12, 2012 at 10:48 PM

        According to an article recently on this very site penalties have been nearly cut in half from 09/10. I’m going to guess some of those were interference/holding.

  11. blomfeld - Mar 12, 2012 at 10:05 PM


    Burke is a clown and the sooner he get’s tossed in Lake Ontario the better ! What the hell is “bear hugging” supposed to be, other than some goofy “rehashed” label for clutching and grabbing ? Interference and cheap shots shouldn’t be tolerated period, just like holding, grabbing, hooking, etc. It’s easy though to see why Burke is pushing something as stupid as bear hugging, given that his lousy team’s only chance now is to turn the whole thing into a Roman-Greco wrestling match.

  12. 4twistedlogic - Mar 12, 2012 at 11:06 PM

    Burke is a refreshing change to the drone like behavior the NHL and it’s players are known for.

    Just look at all the comments in any post about him.

    • blomfeld - Mar 12, 2012 at 11:32 PM

      with all kidding aside, you’re exactly correct … guys like Burke are indeed refreshing and very entertaining too … and thus they’re good for the game …

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