Mostly, Vancouver sports fans love Brian Burke. From the day he hit town in 1987 as main aide to Canucks General Manager Pat Quinn, until his return as top dog of the USA 2010 Olympic Team, Brian has attracted attention. Media folks relied on Burke for headline grabbing quotes and he could oblige instantly with astute comments, outrage, drollery or bemusement, depending on what he thought appropriate. Even a “No comment” from Burke could be the foundation of a story.
Two of Brian’s enduring foes in this town were newspaper scribbler Tony Gallagher and sports radio fabulist David Pratt. Not likely, but maybe those are walls that also can be deconstructed. Sports Illustrated tells a touching story of how Burke and Edmonton NHL executive Kevin Lowe were reminded that friends shouldn’t stay angry with each other:
Remember Kevin Lowe, the Oilers executive Burke eviscerated—and who a year later fired back by calling Burke “a moron” and accusing him of destroying the Canucks before leaving to run Anaheim? “Last summer I said something [nasty] about Kevin Lowe, and Brendan asked, ‘How can you stay mad at someone?'” Burke says. “I said, ‘It’s easy.’ He said, ‘No, it’s not. He used to be your friend. It doesn’t make sense. I don’t approve.’
When Lowe, now the Oilers’ president, learned of Brendan’s passing, he e-mailed Brian, referring to their shattered relationship while offering his sympathies. Burke immediately called Edmonton G.M. Steve Tambellini, with whom he had worked in Vancouver, and asked him to tell Lowe that this is one broken fence he wants to mend.
And so Burke and Lowe began the healing process last week at Canada Hockey Place. In their best moments, the Olympics can be as much about peace and friendship as about rivalries. Five nights before the U.S. beat Canada 5-3, the grieving father walked over to Lowe, a Team Canada executive, and offered his hand. Burke says an awkward sort of half man-hug accompanied the handshake. The Olympics really can be as much about peace and friendship as about medals.
“Again, that’s Brendan breaking down another wall,” Burke says. “That’s what he does.” Burke reaches for a paper towel.
Read all of Man of His Word, Michael Farber’s top story at S.I.
Also, see my blog entry “This won’t change a thing.”