By Ahmad Nasser, November 17, 2015 —
The king of the untied tie was back on the University of Calgary campus this fall to speak to the law school about current issues in sports.
In a room full of keen law students, Calgary Flames president of hockey operations Brian Burke stepped up to the podium with his tie characteristically hanging on either sides of his collar, and cracked a joke about Oilers fans.
Though not a boisterous man, Burke has the presence to captivate a room, as his dry humour and concise explanations intrigue listeners.
After a brief introduction, Burke dove right in to the pressing sports issues of our day.
“The hottest topic in sports law is the whole personal conduct issue,” Burke said. He went on to explain that professional leagues are now taking legal action to alter professional sporting commissions’ power to discipline their players on and off the field, using recent examples like Tom Brady’s ‘deflategate’ scandal.
After touching on a number of contemporary issues in the NHL, the Flames boss explained his journey from playing hockey at Providence College to his position with the Flames.
Burke graduated from Harvard Law in 1981 and was asked by a number of his former teammates to represent them. He got his first position with the Vancouver Canucks as assistant GM under Pat Quinn. Nearly 20 years later, Burke has forged a career as one of the sport’s most notable managers.
“I have the NHL record for being the GM of the most teams,” Burke said. “That’s not a good record to have.”
After lecturing on the difficulties and the instability involved in a career in sports, he went on to explain the upside of working in the industry.
“When you look at job opportunities, don’t just focus on the talent side,” Burke said. “There’s way more juice in the job.”
Burke wrapped his speech up by telling law students to pursue their dreams and not be afraid of making bold moves. During the question period, Burke cracked a couple of jokes and spoke about different topics pertaining to the NHL’s future, but what really stood out were his comments about the importance of character and charity.
“That is the difference between a championship team and a non-championship team,” Burke said. “The more teamwork that’s involved, the more character you need.”
This was Burke’s second visit to the U of C Law School. While his talks have been far-reaching in terms of the topics discussed, he’s continued to stress the importance of using a law degree and one’s status as a public figure to promote charitable causes in one’s community.