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Burke's Passion for Pittsburgh Resonates with Season Ticket Holder

Luke Madia got the chance to engage with the Penguins president of hockey ops during a recent event

by Caleigh Burchfield / Pittsburgh Penguins

Brian Burke has made Penguins fans a priority since being named the team's president of hockey operations back in February.

He recently took part in another virtual "Fireside Chat" for season ticket holders hosted by Paul Steigerwald that lasted about 40 minutes, where Burke discussed many topics - including his career, his relationship with Penguins general manager Ron Hextall, the trade deadline and overall state of the team.

"For the people who are joining us today, we start and end all these video calls the same way -which is to say thank you, thank you, thank you," Burke said. "The season ticket holders and sponsors are the lifeblood of any pro sports team."

Burke also answered questions from those on the call. One of them came from longtime fan Luke Madia, who asked the following:

"During the past few years, the Penguins have prioritized speed and skill on their team. You have said that you wanted to add some more truculence to the lineup. Is speed and skill going to still be a priority moving forward, or will it be diminished for 'heavy' hockey?"

Burke thanked Madia for his question and told him it was a great one before proceeding with his response.

"We need to do both," Burke said. "Our trademark, our DNA, is speed and skill. That's how (Mike Sullivan) coaches, that's not going to change. That being said, I think there's room to blend both styles. I think there's some teams that play fast hockey, but have more size and more truculence. I think we need to be a hybrid of some sort; we need to add some toughness. I'm tired of watching our good players get hit."

Madia said he really appreciated Burke's answer, echoing the sentiment that he doesn't like watching Pittsburgh's stars take as much physicality as they do. To that end, Madia is a big fan of Brandon Tanev.

"I always enjoy watching Brandon Tanev, because he's just crazy going everywhere and hitting everyone," Madia said with a laugh. "If we had a whole third and fourth line of just him, it'd be so much fun." 

Madia has been following the team for a long time. He grew up in the Mario Lemieux era and went to a lot of home games with his father, particularly during the Stanley Cup championship runs in 1991 and '92, and has been a season ticket holder himself since the 2007-08 season.

And while Madia's focus has always been on the Penguins, he would occasionally catch Burke doing different interviews over the years, and always enjoyed them. So he really appreciated the chance to actually engage with Burke himself in his own interview of sorts.

"I really like how much of a straight shooter he is," Madia said of Burke. "I was pretty excited when I saw he was hired. I would listen to him a lot on TSN because I have the Center Ice package, so I would see him in between periods, and he always came across as a pretty entertaining commentator. I'd also hear him on Sirius XM on the NHL network, so I always thought he was an entertaining insider on that as well."

Madia also said he's excited to have somebody joining the organization who is so passionate about the team and the city, as Burke reiterated that a huge part of what drew him to this job was the fan base.

"The fan base is fantastic," Burke said. "Loyal as dogs, loud as hell. I hated coming here with my teams over the years. The city, it's got a reputation as the best sports town in America. It's a wonderful place to live. I (recently) bought a condo in the city. I am a Pittsburgher. I'm proud of it. 

"The ownership group is second to none. The facilities are as good as there is in the league. David Morehouse as the CEO, that's a guy people like to work for. Some pretty good players, some pretty good pieces on the chessboard. This was a simple one for me. I never dreamed I get a chance to work here. To me, it's just like - I pinch myself."

As a lifetime resident of a Pittsburgh suburb, Madia appreciates Burke's love for the city.

"I think it's amazing," said Madia. "He was really excited to come here. I think that there's so much experience, so many relationships around the league. Same with Hextall, I'm sure that him having the relationship with LA from the past had a lot to do with (Jeff) Carter coming. So I think that that experience and enthusiasm from them is really going to benefit the Penguins long-term."

And while it's fun to look at the future, it's hard not to be excited about the present, with the way the Penguins are playing right now. Hopefully, Madia can make some more memories in the postseason to go along with the ones he cherishes from when he was growing up.

"The game I remember most, and it probably would still rank as the best game I've been to, was Game 1 against the Blackhawks in '92," Madia said. "They were down, and then Mario Lemieux won it in the last 10 seconds. I was there in person, and I was a Penguins fan at that point already, but that just kicked it into overdrive and made it a lifelong thing. That game was absolutely amazing. I'll always root for the more entertaining series and hope we win."

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