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Burke set to take over Maple Leafs

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TORONTO (AP) -If nothing else, Brian Burke will bring a pretty distinct personality to the Toronto Maple Leafs.

Some of the people who know the hockey executive best think his no-nonsense approach is perfectly suited to one of the NHL's most intense markets. With Burke set to become the Maple Leafs' president and general manager on Saturday, many around the league will be watching his moves closely.

"He'll handle it well, but he won't be hesitant to stick up for what he believes in," Calgary Flames part-owner Harley Hotchkiss said. "He'll do a good job there. He'll stir things up and he likes to win. I think that Brian will really make things happen in Toronto. Will they all be good? Well, we'll see. Life isn't usually that simple."

Burke's arrival has been expected since John Ferguson was fired in January. Cliff Fletcher ran the team in the interim, but it seemed as if Burke was destined to assume the job eventually.

He has a solid hockey background but arrives as a somewhat divisive figure. While some fans are hailing him as the savior of the franchise, others worry that he's not capable of rebuilding a team that hasn't appeared in a playoff game since 2004.

Burke has been building toward this kind of role since his college days at Providence College, where he played under New Jersey Devils president Lou Lamiorello on a team with Leafs coach Ron Wilson and Hockey Canada president Bob Nicholson.

Lamiorello refuses to accept much credit for helping develop those three successful hockey men, but does think the professional atmosphere at Providence must have helped.

"I think they would have all had success no matter what field they chose," Lamiorello said. "They were those type of students, those type of personalities. ...

"It is not surprising the success that they've had. All three have not changed as far as their qualities."

Burke and Wilson crossed paths repeatedly over the past couple of decades and always believed a day like this one was coming.

"This is something that we've always kiddingly (talked about) when we've been around each other," Wilson said. "Actually, it was Brian who said it to me: `Someday we'll work together.' And you never know where it's going to be.

"From that point of view, this couldn't be a better situation."

Wilson expects a seamless transition from Fletcher to Burke.

"I know Brian a lot better than anyone else probably except for his wives to be honest with you," Wilson said. "(We) go back 35 years. I know that's how Brian is - very open to discussion, and that's what I'm looking forward to."

After three seasons and a Stanley Cup win in Anaheim, Burke stepped down from his job two weeks ago. He cited a desire to be closer to the four children from his first marriage. They all live on the East Coast.

"On behalf of the entire Anaheim Ducks family, we would once again like to thank Brian for his tremendous contributions over the last three-plus seasons," Anaheim CEO Michael Schulman said in a statement. "Brian stated on many occasions his desire to be closer to his family, which we support.

"We congratulate and wish him the best of luck with the Maple Leafs."

Ducks coach Randy Carlyle joked when asked about Burke.

"Brian who?" Carlyle said, playfully.

"Obviously that's good for Brian," Carlyle said. "That's what he chose and what he was looking forward to when he became a free agent. We thank him for the commitment to our organization. From a personal standpoint, I owe him a lot."

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