Brian Burke (born Brian P. Burke (born June 30, 1955 in Providence, Rhode Island) is an American executive who is currently the President of Hockey Operations for the Calgary Flames of the National Hockey League (NHL) and is a member of Rugby Canada’s Board of Directors.
He most recently served as the president and general manager of the Toronto Maple Leafs from November 29, 2008 through January 9, 2013.
Brian was also the general manager for the United States national men's ice hockey team for the 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver.
Brian graduated from Providence College in 1977 with a Bachelor of Arts degree in History. While attending Providence, he played for the Friars Division-I ice hockey team, where (during his senior year), he served as captain. The team was coached by Lou Lamoriello. He was a teammate with Ron Wilson at Providence.
In 1977, he played seven games with the Springfield Indians of the American Hockey League (AHL).
He then proceeded to play one full year in the AHL with the Maine Mariners, who won the AHL Calder Cup Championship that year.
After playing one year in the AHL, Brian attended Harvard Law School where he graduated with a Juris Doctor in 1981.
Early career and GM of Hartford Whalers
After graduating from Harvard Law School, Brian became an NHL player agent.
Brian stepped down after one year in Hartford, so he could join the NHL front office as executive vice president and director of hockey operations, under league commissioner Gary Bettman.
In 1998, Brian became general manager of the Vancouver Canucks. With the Canucks, he was credited with reviving the ailing franchise and increasing attendance, with the drafting and signing of several key players such as Daniel Sedin, Henrik Sedin and Ryan Kesler as the team won a playoff series and captured a division title.
Following the 2003–04 NHL season, the Canucks ownership chose not to renew his contract for the GM position. Brian then briefly worked as an analyst for NHL games on both CBC and TSN. His total record with the Canucks was 219-181-68-24.
General Manager of the Anaheim Ducks
Brian won the Stanley Cup with the Anaheim Ducks as the GM in the 2006–07 NHL season. It was his second year as an executive with the club.
On November 12, 2008, he stepped down as GM of the Anaheim Ducks. The Ducks management submitted papers to the NHL, releasing him from contractual commitment.
President and General Manager of the Toronto Maple Leafs
On November 29, 2008, Brian was introduced as the president and general manager of the Toronto Maple Leafs, replacing interim general manager Cliff Fletcher. He became the 13th non-interim general manager of the club and the first to be American-born. He reportedly agreed to a six-year deal worth $3 million annually.
Soon thereafter, on December 4, 2008, he offered Dave Nonis the position of senior vice-president and director of hockey operations for the Maple Leafs which accepted, (marking the third time he has held this post under Brian; he had done so previously in Anaheim and Vancouver).
On January 9, 2013, Brian was fired by the Leafs as President and General Manager, and given a role as Senior Advisor to MLSE's President and C.O.O. Tom Anselmi, and the MLSE Board of Directors.
The advisory role would not relate to hockey matters. he was fired principally by team director George A. Cope, who campaigned the team's new ownership to make a change in team leadership.
During Brian's tenure with the Leafs from November 2008 to January 2013, the team consistently failed to make the post-season and remained the only team in the League that was unable to do so following the 2004 lockout. With the Leafs, Burke amassed a record of 129-135-42.
During his time in Toronto, Brian was notably criticized for a controversial trade in 2009 with Boston when he acquired sniper Phil Kessel for two first-round draft picks and a second-round selection. The Bruins used the picks to select star forward Tyler Seguin, Dougie Hamilton and Jared Knight.
He was also criticized for taking personal leaves to visit troops overseas during prime free agency dates on multiple occasions.
In December 2011, Brian drew criticism in the media for his mid-season extension of head coach Ron Wilson (with whom he was notably friends). Despite Wilson's three consecutive losing seasons, he renewed his contract with a $2 million extension.
News of the contract broke on social media site Twitter where Wilson posted that "This Xmas could be better if Santa stuffs a certain piece of paper in my stocking" and " 'He came! He came!' [...] I got a new Red Ryder BB gun and a contract extension!" to which Burke replied, "Congratulations to Ron Wilson on his contract extension! Merry Christmas Ron!"
Later, Burke defended his decision in the media, stating, “This is a coach who’s earned this, a coach who’s earned this extension,” and “It’s not charity. It’s not a gift.”
However, Wilson was released with full pay three months later following mounting losses and jeers from fans. “Every coach has a shelf life,” Burke said. “After the last home game, it would be cruel and unusual punishment to let Ron coach another game in the Air Canada Centre.”
On September 5, 2013, Brian was named the President of Hockey Operations for the Calgary Flames. After firing Jay Feaster and John Weisbrod, he became the acting General Manager during the search for a permanent GM.
On April 28, 2014, he hired Brad Treliving as the permanent GM of the Calgary Flames.