Calgary Flames official pays visit to City

  • Jan. 27, 2016 3:20 p.m.

Members of the Red Deer Chamber of Commerce were treated to a different viewpoint on hockey last week.

Brian Burke, the Calgary Flames President of Hockey Operations, addressed a group of Chamber members during a special lunch at the Black Knight Inn as part of his Key Speaker Series.

“This is disputed territory. We view it as our territory, of course,” Burke said at the start of his 40 minute long talk, during which he addressed a number of hockey-related issues and topics including the CalgaryNEXT project, his own team’s fortunes this season, and the falling Canadian dollar.

“We had a tough start to the season,” Burke said of his Calgary Flames, who didn’t win a game in regulation until Nov. 7th this season.

Last year, the Flames were one of the most surprising teams in the NHL. While many believed they would finish in the bottom five in the standings, Calgary managed to fight their way into the post-season.

“Last year, obviously, we were probably the surprise of the National Hockey League. To make the playoffs and then to win a round. We beat the Vancouver Canucks in the first round and then we played Anaheim and Anaheim was a different story for us.

“They were too big and too fast and we were too young,” said Burke, who worked as the general manager of the Canucks, Ducks, and the Toronto Maple Leafs before joining the Flames in 2013. He won a Stanley Cup with the Ducks in 2006-07.

According to Burke, the main issue with the Flames at the start of the year was their lack of team play, among other things.

“I felt our team play was poor, our special team play was poor and continues to struggle. I thought the goalies were okay, they weren’t stealing us games but I didn’t think they were the reason for us losing,” he said.

Since November, though, his team has managed to turn their fortunes around somewhat.

“I’m optimistic about our ability to have a good second half,” he said, pointing to the fact both of the team’s goaltenders as well as their defense have started to perform well.

Perhaps more pressing for the Flames, and all Canadian teams, Burke said, is the Canadian economy. While the falling Canadian dollar hasn’t had a huge effect on this season, next season will be a very different story.

“It’s a major problem for all seven teams. There are two issues here. One is the economy in Alberta.

“I don’t have to tell anyone in Alberta where we are with the price of oil and the layoffs. But the second issue is the foreign exchange issue, which is crippling to the Canadian teams right across the country,” he said.

“If, this summer, our player payroll is $70 million U.S., and I won’t have the figures exactly right, but when the dollar was at 93 cents our payroll was around $80 million, $82 million (CAN). Now it’s well over $100 million and climbing.”

A strong supporter of gay rights, Burke also spent some time talking about the You Can Play initiative, a project that was founded by his son, Patrick Burke in 2012.

The You Can Play project is aimed toward, “Ensuring equality, respect and safety for all athletes, without regard to sexual orientation,” according to the project’s mission statement. It was created in honour of Brian’s youngest son, Brendan, who came out in 2009 while he was playing goal for the University of Miami RedHawks. A few months later, Brendan died in a car accident.

Since then, Brian has been one of the movement’s most outspoken advocates and allies. Since 2012, the project has partnered with professional leagues in nearly every sport, including the NHL, NFL, CFL, MLS and WWE to name just a few.

“We don’t have a problem on the women’s side. Team athletes who are gay in women’s sports aren’t ostracized, it’s not a problem, they’re accepted. But the drop-off rate of young male team athletes that are gay is staggering.

“I think it’s had a profound effect. I don’t think it’s a homophobic dressing room nature now with our kids. I think our young players would happily accept a gay teammate, I really believe that. I think the first (professional) hockey player that comes out is going to find a very welcome reception.”

Just Posted

Team Alberta ends Games strongly with 44 medals in week one

Alberta is currently sitting in second place of the medal standings

Jayda Monilaws raises over $7,000 of cupcakes for Central Alberta Humane Society

This is the most the 10-year-old Red Deerian has raised so far

PHOTOS: Alberta male team takes silver in Winter Games relay speed skating

Alberta was close behind Quebec in the team relay speed skating finals

WATCH: Pet therapy brings calmness to Winter Games athletes

Canada Winter Games in Red Deer continue on until March 2nd

Jayda Monilaws is selling cupcakes again for Central Alberta Humane Society

The 10-year-old Red Deerian is selling cupcakes today from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.

Indigenous leaders, politicians say Trans Mountain report flawed

The National Energy Board has endorsed an expansion of the Trans Mountain pipeline a second time

People gather for funeral of seven children killed in fast-moving Halifax fire

Traditional portion of the service will be followed by words from community members

R. Kelly charged with 10 counts of sexual abuse

R&B star has been accused of sexual misconduct involving women and underage girls for years

Child advocacy centre raising funds through Dream Home Lottery

The child advocacy centre in Red Deer uses its resources to help kids all over Central Alberta

Trudeau tells Canadians to listen to clerk in SNC-Lavalin matter

Privy Council clerk Michael Wernick delivered a blunt assessment at the House of Commons justice

Mueller report looming, new attorney general in hot seat

Robert Mueller is required to produce a confidential report to pursue or decline prosecutions

B.C. woman shares story of abuse with church officials ahead of Vatican summit

Leona Huggins was the only Canadian in the gathering ahead of a historic summit at the Vatican

Sylvan Lake’s Megan Cressey misses Freestyle Skiing Big Air podium

Alberta’s Jake Sandstorm captured silver in the men Freestyle Skiing Big Air contest

Why do zebras have stripes? Perhaps to dazzle away flies

Researchers from University of Bristol look into why zebras have stripes

Most Read