Brian Burke got used to taking his lumps as a minor-league player, often bloodied, but never beaten. Still, the high-profile Vancouver Canucks executive didn't appreciate the way he was fined yesterday after he made critical comments about National Hockey League officials in the playoffs.
The vocal general manager of the Canucks indicated yesterday the NHL had not formally notified him of the $30,000 (U.S.) assessment. Burke apparently learned of the levy through a television report.
"I don't think that's any way to conduct business and I'm really disappointed in that," said Burke, who at one time served as the NHL's vice-president of hockey operations in charge of league discipline. "I'm not surprised I got fined; I was told by the league I was going to get fined. But I wasn't told what the amount was and I don't think that's a professional way to deal with stuff like this."
Mike Milbury, general manager of the New York Islanders, also was fined yesterday by the NHL for inappropriate comments, along with coach Michel Therrien of the Montreal Canadiens.
Detroit Red Wings coach Scott Bowman -- his team eliminated Vancouver in six games during the first round of the playoffs -- was fined $10,000 for an incident with a reporter and the team was hit with an additional $25,000 for media-access violations.
"As far as Scotty getting fined for pushing a reporter, I'm going to send Scotty a cheque," Burke said. "I support Scotty fully."
Burke went public last week with several concerns, including the way officials handling the Detroit-Vancouver series allowed the Red Wings leeway in discussing calls. Detroit was the Western Conference's top seed; the Canucks were No. 8. Vancouver won the first two games of the series and Detroit won the next four.
"We conveyed our concerns to the supervisor in the series and we were assured those concerns would be addressed," Burke said during his postseason news conference at GM Place. "Only when they weren't [addressed]did I say, 'Enough is enough.' Our players have to believe that management is behind them.
"I don't take back a word of what I said and I don't apologize for the statements I made. It's not a sense of us whining about it once the tide turned in the series. We started complaining about stuff that was legitimate and we were told by the supervisor that our complaints would be addressed -- and they weren't."
Burke carefully pointed out he didn't complain about individual referees in the series, but rather about the "demeanour and the tone and the respect."
"I have complete respect for the officials. I was their boss for five years and I know they have integrity and I know they do their best. What we were complaining about are things that should have been addressed at the supervisory level. Our beef was with [the NHL]and the manner in which the officials were handled in this series."
Former NHL referee Dave Newell was the league supervisor during the series. Burke would not discuss the pending free agency of Vancouver players Andrew Cassels and Scott Lachance, both valuable contributors for the second consecutive season.
He reiterated that management wants to continue developing its younger players, who performed admirably in the second half of the season. The Canucks were 28-9-3-3 following the Christmas break.
With a player payroll of $32-million (U.S.), Burke indicated the Canucks have no intention of chasing high-end free agents, and will concentrate on lobbying the government for a better financial deal for the team.
"Our position is not going to change," Burke said. "We want to pay what's fair and not a penny more. I have no intention of changing how we do business here.
"If players don't want to play here for what's fair, they can go somewhere else. [But]at the right price, I think we've made Vancouver a more attractive destination."
It's likely the Canucks will show a deficit this season, believed to be less than $10-million (Canadian) after 25 sellouts in 41 home games.
Burke also defended goaltender Dan Cloutier, whose game fell apart late in the Detroit series. Cloutier was pulled in Games 5 and 6 after starting both.
"It's like learning to ride a bike," Burke said. "You've got to fall off the bike a couple times before learning how to ride it. That's what Danny's going through.
"There's no easy way to learn. Danny's going through the school of hard knocks, but that being said . . . he's the reason, in my opinion, we were in the playoffs."