If it has to do with hockey, Brian Burke has probably had his hand in it one way or the other. And he does it with every ounce of energy in his body.
“He’s very opinionated, incredibly smart, very strong-willed, extremely compassionate — a lot of these are contradictory terms — and I would say one of the most committed people I’ve ever met,” said Dave Ogrean, former executive director of USA Hockey. “When he gets involved in something, if he’s invited to be part of something and he accepts that, when he commits to something, he’s all in like nobody I’ve ever seen.”
Accomplishments? There are too many to list for the Edina, Minnesota, native. But among them are a career as a hockey executive that saw him build the first Stanley Cup champion in Southern California — the Anaheim Ducks in 2007 — and the U.S. team which earned a silver medal at the 2010 Vancouver Olympic Winter Games. Burke worked in the front offices of five NHL teams and had stints with the league office and other roles with USA Hockey.
In addition, Burke, who had a brief minor league playing career before graduating from Harvard Law School and becoming an agent, has been a TV analyst for various networks. Currently, Burke is the first executive director of the Professional Women’s Hockey League Players Association.
All of that adds up to Burke being inducted into the U.S. Hockey Hall of Fame on Dec. 6 in Boston. Burke will be enshrined with Dustin Brown, Katie King Crowley, Jamie Langenbrunner and Brian Murphy. Also being honored is 2023 Lester Patrick Trophy winner Joe Bertagna.
David Poile, a U.S. Hockey Hall of Famer who recently retired after being the general manager of the Nashville Predators from 1997-2023, had many professional and personal encounters with Burke.
“We had a couple of clients that we dealt with,” Poile said of Burke’s days as an agent. “I got to hang out with him a little bit. Then I got to see, started to appreciate and learn about his larger-than-life personality. It was always situations where you have a lot of fun, a lot of laughs.”
Poile has seen Burke’s deep impact on the game and says Burke is one of the big reasons USA Hockey has been a bigger force on the international stage over the last two decades.
Burke always wanted to learn more about hockey. He often tapped the minds of GMs and other front-office personnel about how they succeed in their sport and what they might think of certain ideas, many times on the golf course.
Burke built numerous connections throughout the years, which Ogrean said he used to build a bond between USA Hockey and the NHL.
“Brian Burke, Jim Johannson and Art Berglund are the three people who have had the greatest influence on our national teams over the last 40 years,” Ogrean said. “And Brian was, by example, very much a part of our extending and deepening our relationship with the NHL from 2000 really to [now]. His commitment to USA Hockey really rubbed off on other GMs and teams to the benefit of USA Hockey. The relationship got much, much closer.”
How did Burke become so influential? Through hard work and earning trust.He was willing to do whatever it took to get his foot in the door.
“I remember he used to say, ‘Listen, I want to help out. I’ll fold towels for you guys. I just want to help you. I want to be part of what you’re doing,’” Ogrean said. “He was a very sincere advocate of our national teams and I think that rubbed off on other guys.”
Burke consistently tried to address problems from an intelligent point of view.
“I think he’s got lots of, I’ll use the word passion. He’s got lots of beliefs,” Poile said. “He’s just really an interesting person. When he sees things that are right or wrong, he has an opinion on them. Like all leaders, he does something about it. He’s not without criticism with some of the things he has attempted or said. But he doesn’t back down. He doesn’t say, ‘You’re never going to hear from me again.’ He keeps bringing up new thoughts and reinventing himself.”
Story from Red Line Editorial, Inc.