NEW YORK — Brian Burke was a shortened-season removed from his tenure as the General Manager of the Toronto Maple Leafs when the club made its first playoff appearance in seven seasons. But that didn’t stop Burke from throwing his support behind the organization that fired him one day after the 2012 lockout was lifted. The further the Leafs went, Burke said Saturday at the Sports Management Worldwide Hockey Career Conference, “the better it would’ve looked on my resume.” After all, it was Burke who assembled the Leafs squad that had the eventual Eastern Conference-champion Boston Bruins on the ropes in Game 7.
Still, Burke wasn’t watching when the Leafs squandered a 4-1 third-period lead before ultimately losing 5-4 in overtime. When asked about his immediate reaction to the collapse, Burke explained he was in Europe at the time for the IIHF World Championship following a visit to the Canadian troops in Afghanistan. At the Mercy of Swedish and Finnish hotel television, he missed most of the first round, including all of the Leafs’ games.
When he finally caught the recording of the last fifteen minutes, Burke said he couldn’t help but feel for his former players.
“That’s going to haunt them forever,” he said.
Visors, Hybrid Icing and the Ringette Line
Burke said it’s about time that visors and hybrid icing made their way into the game, moves he claimed to have been championing for years. During his time as the Leafs’ GM, Burke “begged” his players, especially defensemen, to wear visors
Still Burke isn’t 100 percent satisfied with the NHL’s on-ice product. Although Burke acknowledged removing the red line and eliminating two-line passes was a success, he believes the move has led to a sacrifice of skill in favor of speed.
“When teams in our league are breaking out by hammering the puck to the blue line, we’ve taken too much skill out of the game,” Burke said after comparing the back and forth stretch passes to a game of tennis.
Burke has been a proponent of the ringette line, which would extend across the top of the face-off circles. If implemented, players would have to carry the puck across the ringette line in order to avoid being called for a two-line pass. Burke recalled that when he first suggested the ringette line in 1993, people said “that’s the dumbest thing I’ve ever heard.”
“Then when Scotty Bowman suggested it a few years later, it was ‘We should look at this.'”