NHL: Maple Leafs stunned by death of GM Burke's son
TORONTO — A moment of silence will be held for Brendan Burke, the son of Toronto general manager Brian Burke who died in car accident, before the Maple Leafs play Ottawa on Saturday night.
The 21-year-old Burke died after his car slid sideways into the path of another car on a snowy Indiana road on Friday. Burke's friend, 18-year-old Mark Reedy, also died in the accident.
Maple Leafs players found out about the accident after a loss in New Jersey on Friday night.
Toronto's Francois Beauchemin played for Burke when he was general manager for the Anaheim Ducks and recalled celebrating their 2007 Stanley Cup win at a gathering with Brendan.
"You never think, 'that's going to happen to me,'" Beauchemin said after Saturday's pregame skate. "But when it happens to somebody really close, like Brian, you kind of do think about it. It can happen any time, and it's really tough."
Brian Burke is also the general manager of the U.S. Olympic team that will begin play in Vancouver on Feb. 16.
"It's the worst news you could ever receive," Leafs forward Christian Hanson said. "I don't think there's anything that can be worse than losing a family member."
The driver of the truck was reportedly uninjured.
Brendan Burke attended Miami of Ohio and was a manager for the school's top-ranked hockey team. He made news last year after ESPN.com ran a story about his decision to tell his father he was gay.
"I had a million good reasons to love and admire Brendan," Brian Burke said in the story. "This news didn't alter any of them."
Father and son discussed the news during a joint appearance on Canadian television TSN last year. Brendan Burke said while he was initially nervous about coming out to his father, he knew he would find support.
"I was surprised, but Brendan's a wonderful kid," Brian Burke said in the interview. "He's been a joy since the day he came home from the hospital, and I support him. I'm very proud of him."
Burke said he told his son he loved him.
"He's supported me with everything I've done in the past," Brendan Burke said during the interview. "I knew he would support me on this, too, and it really meant a lot. My whole family has been there for me, and been behind me 100 percent."
Both men said the positive feedback overwhelmed any of the negative they might have received.
"Pioneers are often misunderstood," Brian Burke told TSN. "You don't wish this on your son, you wish that someone else carries that burden first, and then he can grab it and help. But this is what he wanted to do, and we support him."
Leafs goaltender Jean-Sebastien Giguere also played for Burke in Anaheim and knew his son.
"It's really sad," Giguere said. "I don't think we can even comprehend what Burkie is going through at this point. I think, right now, it's best to just let him grieve and make sure that we do our job here at the rink to make sure he doesn't have to worry about that."