Vancouver will not extend Burke's contract

Updated: May 3, 2004, 8:08 PM ET
Associated Press

VANCOUVER, British Columbia -- Brian Burke is out as president and general manager of the Vancouver Canucks, who were eliminated in the first round of the playoffs by the Calgary Flames.

Brian Burke
APThe Canucks' fourth straight postseason berth wasn't enough to guarantee Brian Burke's job.

Burke's contract expires June 30 -- his 49th birthday -- and the Canucks said Monday that it will not be extended.

"Brian has played a pivotal role in the improvement and success of the Canucks over the past six years, and we appreciate his dedication and contributions," Canucks owner John McCaw said. "He deserves a great deal of credit."

Stanley McCammon, chief executive of the Canucks' parent company, Orca Bay Sports and Entertainment, said the team expects to have a new general manager shortly.

The Canucks finished with a 43-24-20-5 record but were ousted in the first round of the playoffs.

"We didn't get the job done," Burke said in a season-wrapup news conference April 21. "Our job is to get the job done. Our motto here is no complaints, no excuses."

Off the ice, the Canucks went from claiming annual losses in the tens of millions to a club that made money each of the last two seasons. Season ticket sales, which dipped below 10,000 early in Burke's tenure, had to be capped this season after topping out above 16,000.

Vancouver finished the season with its 86th consecutive sellout.

"I think Brian has probably done as masterful a job taking a franchise that was in the position we were in and turning it to the point that it's in," McCammon said. "But at the end of the day, he's the guy who, to use his terms, had his hands on the wheel."

The season had already soured when star forward Todd Bertuzzi was suspended for attacking Colorado's Steve Moore. Burke said Bertuzzi, suspended for the final 13 regular-season games and all the playoffs, had been unfairly treated by the media.

The Canucks had a bloated payroll and had missed the playoffs the previous two years when Burke became GM.

With Burke keeping a close eye on the budget but managing to re-sign key players, Vancouver has made the playoffs the last four years. The team's payroll this year was about $43 million.

"This is a group that is very close to winning it all, and I feel very fortunate to have had the chance to work with such a quality group of people," Burke said Monday.

But the Canucks have advanced past the first round only once. The loss to Calgary this season was the second consecutive year the Canucks lost a Game 7 at home to a team that finished below them in the standings.

"We're all disappointed that we went out in the first round and had great hopes and expectations, but to say that losing in a hard-fought, seven-game series when one of your star players is out and your first goaltender is out, it's pretty hard to pin that on anybody," McCammon said.

Burke first joined the Canucks in 1987, when he was hired as vice president and director of hockey operations. He left in 1992 to be general manager of the Hartford Whalers.

He joined the NHL front office in 1993 as senior vice president and director of hockey operations and spent five years with the league. During that time, he was visible as the league's chief disciplinarian.

Copyright 2004 by The Associated Press