Burke introduced in new structuring of Flames hockey operations
CALGARY, AB -- Following a new organizational structure that has seen success across professional sports, Brian Burke was named the Calgary Flames President of Hockey Operations during a press conference on Thursday.
Burke, 58, was named to the newly-minted role in a structure that will see general manager Jay Feaster and the rest of hockey operations report directly to him.
The role does not change for current President and CEO Ken King, assistant general manager of player personnel John Weisbrod or special assistant to the general manager Craig Conroy.
During the press conference, King and Burke said the structural format has not been used often in the NHL, but has been successful in the National Football League, Major League Baseball and the National Basketball Association.
“It works effectively and it’s going to work here,” Burke said. “I’m not the general manager of the Calgary Flames, Jay Feaster is and Jay and I have been friends for a long time. We met this morning and we talked about how to make this work.
“We are both committed to winning.”
Feaster said he welcomes the opportunity to work with Burke and to add over 20 years of professional hockey experience to the team.
“When the concept was broached with me and ownership indicated this was something they had been thinking about, we endorse it. I endorse it as the GM, my staff endorses this,” Feaster said, adding the pair have known each other since the mid-90s. “To be able to bring somebody in who has won a Stanley Cup, who has taken the team to that lofty level and has been in the game at that many capacities as Brian as had in his entire career, to be able to tap into that wealth of knowledge on a daily basis, it’s a great thing.
“From our perspective, it’s a collaborative effort with him. We will keep him busy because we want his input, we want his information and what he can offer.”
King said the process started many months ago, with a list of about 60 people considered.
“Brian was always in the top of the list,” King said. “We talked to several people, interviewed many and determined that Brian was emerging as the clear-top candidate.
“He had a big decision to make for the next step in his career whether he would accept a different role. He did make that decision and we couldn’t be more pleased that he decided to join us.”
Burke, most recently with the Toronto Maple Leafs, has also been the general manager of the Anaheim Ducks, Vancouver Canucks and Hartford Whalers, winning a Stanley Cup with the Ducks in 2007. He also spent time in the NHL League office as executive vice-president and director of hockey operations.
Last season, he was a member of the scouting staff with Anaheim, but said he needed convincing to take the job with the Flames.
“When Ken first approached me about this job, I told him politely I didn’t think I was interested,” Burke admitted. “I had been a GM since my first time in 1992 and other than five years at the league level and one year being out of work, I had been a GM.
“This is a different job, and I talked to my guys in the other sports that have pondered this scenario and watched it work. This job allows a guy of my seniority to do less of the grunt work, the day-to-day stuff but still be involved. I had to get my head around that and Ken did a good of selling that.”
Part of that convincing came from Ned Colletti, the General Manager of the Los Angeles Dodger of the MLB.
“He was like, ‘Are you crazy, this would be a great job,’” Burke added.
Burke stressed there is no “veto” in the dealings between himself and Feaster, and they will rather debate it out to come up with the final answer.
“If Jay has something he wants to do, we will talk about it and see if we can come up with some sort of consensus about it,” Burke said. “I have talked to executives in other sports about how this works and it’s going to work if Jay and I both want it to work.
“He is going to be in charge, but with my guidance.”
He likens the situation to the US National Olympic Team model, where a committee of American general managers came up with the 2010 team that won silver in Vancouver.
“It’s not one GM, they are pooling expertise, pooling opinion so that to me was the best example to draw from. If both guys are willing to make this work and determined to make this work, it works beautifully.
“It is a work in progress, this is new for both of us but I’m determined to make it work.”
Burke also had a familiarity with Flames chairman and owner Murray Edwards, most recently as part of the negotiation group and the NHLPA last summer.
The structure also means Burke will be taking a step away from the spotlight and media attention.
“From my perspective, this new role, I don’t intend to be a spokesperson for this team,” Burke said. “Hopefully you’ll get what you need from me today and then you can get the day-to-day info from Bob Hartley and the transactional guy to talk about a trade, Jay will talk to the media.
“I intend to have a background role and I think people will believe it when they see it, and trust me, they’ll see it.”