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Burkie's Back

by Staff Writer / Vancouver Canucks

Life with Brian Burke is never dull. Longtime Canucks fans know that as well as anyone.

As former General Manager, Burke guided the Canucks to back-to-back 100+ point seasons, but he was known as much for his abilities in front of a camera as his skills at the draft table.

Now down in Orange County, he's attempting to vault a Ducks franchise to similarly lofty heights and accomplish the one thing that escaped him in Canada - a berth in the Stanley Cup finals.

Apparently he didn't leave the golden tongue back in BC.

On the eve of this year's Western Conference Semi-Final, Burke had plenty to say about the Canucks, his time in Vancouver, and the task ahead of him down in California.

"Everyone said to me: You rebuilt hockey in Vancouver, it's going to be a lot tougher in Southern California.' At the end of my first year in Vancouver, we had 7600 season tickets. That building was a ghost town a lot of nights. And when I took the job there back in '98, I had GM friends of mine tell me not to take it and that they'd have to relocate. That's how bad it was. So I don't think this was anymore of a daunting task.

This is a great hockey market. There are a lot of rabid hockey fans here. I'll put this building up against any building in the NHL for noise. We have great fans here. We had to give them a reason to come back, just like we did in Vancouver."

Burke's uncanny ability to surround himself with the right people has played a large part in helping set both franchises on the right track. Canucks GM Dave Nonis was of course Burke's right hand man throughout much of his career, and it was on Burke's recommendation that Nonis took the top job.

"He's done a terrific job," said Burke. "He's a top young manager and a good guy and Vancouver's lucky to have him. When I left, I told him if they offer you this job, take it. You're a big part of putting this together and you should see it through."

Of course, there were big changes ahead for the Canucks as the first season following Burke's departure the team would fail to make the playoffs, and Nonis would set about retooling the Canucks line-up. Much of the core that Burke and Nonis had engineered with players like Todd Bertuzzi, Ed Jovanovski and Dan Cloutier would be moved. Two key players would remain, however: the Sedin Twins.

While they struggled to meet sky-high expectations in their first years of pro hockey, Burke says he always knew the twins would turn into top scorers.

"What set them apart that draft year, and the reason why we went after them so hard was not just what everyone sees, that radar sense that they have passing the puck to one another," Burke says. "They've got a wave-length between them that's not normal and that you wouldn't have unless they were brothers. If it was one kid from Owen Sound and one kid from Red Deer, I think you'd be hard-pressed to replicate that."

"But what we liked about them was that they were character kids with a great work ethic. And we knew they'd get better because they wanted to get better, they cared about their teammates and they worked like dogs. Their emergence now as frontline players doesn't surprise me at all."

But despite such large influence on how the Canucks are built and the make-up of the current team, his history with Vancouver is of little consequence to Burke now.

"It's another team we've got to beat. Same as they view us... it's a team standing between them and what they want to accomplish. They're a team standing between us and what we want to accomplish. All this residual stuff isn't important to me. All the people that got rid of me are gone. I don't know why we're talking about this... I don't know why I'm sitting here."

Good to have you back, Brian.

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