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Did Burke’s loyalty to the league cost him his job?

Jan 14, 2013, 11:52 AM EDT

Brian Burke Getty Images

Since Brian Burke was fired as Maple Leafs general manager last week, the big question hasn’t been why (there were plenty of reasons there), but why now?

In his post-firing press conference, Burke said he wasn’t provided a “satisfactory explanation” for the timing of the move; however, the CBC’s Elliotte Friedman managed to dig up one possibility through a source.

It sounds like the Toronto Maple Leafs new ownership disagreed with Burke’s CBA philosophies — the unwillingness to use bonuses, back-diving contracts and offer sheets among other things. It’s about using your resources to the fullest extent. In the new deal, there are further limitations, but still advantages to being a financial powerhouse (bonuses, for example, were not touched). If this is true, we’re going to see a change in the way Toronto does business.

One major criticism Burke faced in Toronto was that he was more interested in the success of the NHL than his own team.

As Leafs fan Sean McIndoe, aka @DownGoesBrown, put it to PHT: “Whether it’s some sense of duty to the league, or some sort of personal moral code, or just plain old self-promotion, Burke has a tendency to give the impression that he has quite a few priorities beyond doing whatever it takes to win.”

Burke is one of Gary Bettman’s biggest fans, and not afraid to say it. Perhaps the Leafs’ new ownership group, which wasn’t exactly enamored with Burke to begin with, didn’t appreciate his support for a commissioner who just fought for a CBA that restricts the ability of rich franchises to throw their wallets around.

  1. zetaone - Jan 14, 2013 at 12:10 PM

    Oh my god, who cares anymore? He’s was fired. Big deal, people get fired every day.

    • lonespeed - Jan 14, 2013 at 12:48 PM

      I care…..about as much as I care that Lance Armstrong is admitting he cheated more than a decade after it was relevant. Which I care even less than zero.

  2. thecheeman - Jan 14, 2013 at 12:44 PM

    Seems like that whole willingness to sign long-term contracts should have come up in the initial job interview. It doesn’t sound like Burke would have hidden his intentions.

    • dprouse - Jan 14, 2013 at 2:20 PM

      Leaf ownership, though, changed hands last August, and the new ownership group took a much more hands on approach. They didn’t feel bound to what the last ownership group wanted when they hired Burke.

      If you want your biggest clue as to why Burke was fired, check his exchange with Steve Simmons during his farewell news conference on Saturday. It was everything the new owners didn’t like about Burke – nasty, bullying, constantly battling with people (usually media) and unable to let go of personal grudges. These were all the same reasons why he wore out his welcome in Vancouver. In both cases, he wasn’t fired because he was a poor hockey executive – he was fired because he couldn’t play nicely with the other children, so to speak.

  3. acieu - Jan 14, 2013 at 12:49 PM

    Can we please stop this discussion. Who cares what a half assed hockey board of directors for team in Toronto thinks. When Burke gets hired again start the coverage again until then give it a rest.

  4. 1943mrmojorisin1971 - Jan 14, 2013 at 1:08 PM

    In his press conference Nonis talked a lot about wanting to stay the course and how he felt this was not time to gut the team. Methinks Burke was about to do something colossally stupid, possibly involving Luongo, and ownership wouldn’t allow for another Kessel fiasco.

  5. chicagobtech - Jan 14, 2013 at 2:35 PM

    Somewhat sad, really. When the NFL was facing the prospect of big markets versus little markets, the big market teams knew that a healthy league was one where everybody could compete. Revenue sharing was pushed by the Mara brothers, the other teams ended up coming around. That one act probably did more for the NFL (from purely a business standpoint) than anything else short of the NFL-AFL merger.

    The NHL could learn from the NFL on how to grow a sports league.

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