Members of the Toronto Maple Leafs said Saturday they were stunned to learn of the death of general manager Brian Burke's youngest son, Brendan, who was killed in a car accident in Indiana on Friday afternoon.
The Leafs were told about the tragedy after Friday night's loss to the New Jersey Devils in Newark, N.J., and flew home to Toronto shortly after learning the news.
The team said there will be a moment of silence for Brendan Burke prior to Saturday's game against the Ottawa Senators at the Air Canada Centre.
"It's sad," said Leafs netminder Jean-Sebastien Giguere, who has known Brian Burke since their time with the Anaheim Ducks. "Obviously I won't be able to comprehend what Burkie is going through at this point. I think now it's best we just let him grieve and make sure we do our job here at the rink so he doesn't have to worry about that."
Giguere and defenceman Francois Beauchemin, who also played for Anaheim under Brian Burke, are the only two Leafs who knew his son. Beauchemin said Brendan Burke had celebrated with the Ducks when they won the Stanley Cup in 2007.
"He was a good kid," Giguere said.
Other members of the organization declined comment on Burke's death on Saturday and Leafs head coach Ron Wilson opted to forgo his customary pregame meeting with the media given the circumstances.
The student manager for the hockey team at the Miami University (Ohio), Brendan Burke was relatively unknown in the hockey world prior to revealing he was gay in an in-depth interview with ESPN's John Buccigross in November, a touching story that resonated with many in the game.
At the time, Burke said he had wanted to potentially have a career in hockey after college and had even talked of possibly working in a management role in the NHL.
He said he wanted to use his story to help rid hockey of homophobia and was prompted to speak out after reading an article on the subject in USA Today by former pro player Justin Bourne.
Burke, 21, was reportedly at the wheel of a Jeep Cherokee driving near Economy, Indiana, on Friday afternoon around 3 p.m. when his vehicle slid in snowy conditions into oncoming traffic. Both he and his 18-year-old passenger, Michigan State University student Mark Reedy, were killed.
Burke and Reedy had been at Michigan State in Lansing earlier in the day and were supposed to be back in Oxford, Ohio, for the university team's game Friday night. Map of route between Michigan State (A) and University of Miami (Ohio) (C), and where accident happened (B)
"I think anyone who hears something like that, especially relatively close to home like that, it shakes you up a little bit," Leafs winger Jay Rosehill said.
"It puts things in perspective, things like the loss we had last night didn't seem like such a big deal anymore when you think about things that are going on in the world."
Rosehill said the players were shocked after learning the news.
"We were on the bus and normally the guys just jump off and head right onto the plane, but we all kind of sat there for a few extra minutes, just thinking about what we were told," Rosehill said. "It was a sad feeling for everybody."
Beauchemin had his three-year-old son Samuel at the ACC on Saturday, and said, as a father, the news hit him particularly hard.
"You never think that that could happen to you, but when it happens to someone really close like Brian, you kind of do think about it," Beauchemin said. "It can happen any time. It's really tough when it happens to a person you're really close with. The only thing we can do is just support Brian the way you can.
"The only thing you can do is show our support and play hard on the ice. That's the only thing we can do."Report Typo/Error