The 55 year-old native of Providence, Rhode Island is the current general manager of the Toronto Maple Leafs.
He graduated from Providence College with a Bachelor of Arts in History in 1977. He played for the Division I ice hockey team there and served as captain his senior year. Interestingly, Lou Lamoriello was the coach of the team at the time Burke was there.
He would go on to play one full AHL season with the Maine Mariners and won an AHL Calder Cup Championship. After that season, he decided to go to Harvard Law School and graduated with a Juris Doctor in 1981. He graduated and practiced his trade as an NHL player agent.
Then, in 1987, he got his first big break when Pat Quinn picked him to be the Director of Hockey Operations for the Vancouver Canucks. In time for the 1992-93 season, he was appointed GM of the Hartford Whalers, spending only one season there before being fired.
After this time, he was hired to be in charge of NHL discipline under Commissioner Gary Bettman. He would serve in this role until he was hired in 1998 to be the GM of the Vancouver Canucks franchise.
In four of his six seasons with the franchise, his team made the playoff. However, they never advanced past the conference semifinals series. He missed the playoffs in both 1998-99 and 1999-00, but the Canucks would go on to have 90, 94, 104, and 101 point seasons for the four seasons after that.
Even in light of his success, the Canucks ownership did not renew his contract after the 2003-04 NHL season. Burke kept busy after that by becoming an analyst for CBC and TSN.
Brian Burke was then hired to be GM and Executive Vice-President of the Anaheim Mighty Ducks on June 20, 2005. After just one season, Burke changed the jerseys and dropped the “Mighty” from the team name. During his three full seasons with the franchise from 2005-06 to 2007-08, he led them to the playoffs in all three years.
In 2005-06, the team went to the conference finals, losing to the Edmonton Oilers. In 2006-07 the team would win the first Stanley Cup in franchise history. Again in 2007-08 they would make the playoffs, but lose in the first round to the Dallas Stars.
Burke did inherit some good young players from prior GM Bryan Murray, but he also made some astute moves of his own. He brought in Randy Carlyle to be head coach, he signed Scott Niedermayer, he traded for Francois Beauchemin, he traded for Chris Pronger, and also signed Jonas Hiller as a free agent.
As it can be seen, Burke did have some good young players to work with in Ryan Getzlaf, Corey Perry, and Joffrey Lupul. But, it was his trades and free agent signings that put his team over the top.
With all the success, the Ducks got off to a slow start at the beginning of the 2008-09 NHL season and Burke was released from his contract on November 12, 2008 amongst tremendous speculation that Toronto had targeted him as their next GM.
Quickly after his release, on November 29, 2008 Burke was named President and General Manager of the Toronto Maple Leafs. His time with the Leafs has been marked by the acquisitions of Francois Beauchemin, Mike Komisarek, Luke Schenn, Phil Kessel, Dion Phaneuf, Kris Versteeg, Colby Armstrong, Nazem Kadri, Jonas Gustavsson, and Jean-Sebastien Giguere.
He is not the traditional draft, develop and win type of GM. He seems to like to use his skills as a negotiator in trades more often. Thus far, in seven of 11 NHL seasons as GM, his teams have made the playoffs and he has a Stanley Cup ring. It is hard to argue with the success of the Brian Burke model.
Although, it remains to be seen if he can duplicate past success in a major rebuild of the Toronto Maple Leafs.
He was also the General Manager of the 2010 Winter Olympic Team USA ice hockey entry. There, he assembled a team that won the silver medal on the biggest stage the world has to offer. He did this while also grieving for the loss of his son Brendan Burke.