Last week was a tremendously newsworthy week for the NHL, capped by the tragic death in a car accident of Brendan Burke. Another huge trade and some head office changes round out the week that was in the world’s premier hockey league.
Please Note: The Olympics start this Friday, so Under Review will not be published on its regular Monday morning slot. Instead, look out for a couple Under Reviews over the course of the hockey portion of the Games, when it makes sense to do so. Kick some ass, Canada.
Brendan Burke: 1988–2010
Brendan Burke, the courageous son of Maple Leafs GM Brian Burke who famously and publicly came out of the closet at the tail end of this past November — remarkable considering his age and aspired profession (pro hockey) — died in a car crash on Friday, February 4. It’s a tragedy that the trailblazing son born into a noted hockey family died a few short months after he made history. Considering his briefest of moments in the spotlight, his legacy will live on, but only if the professional sports community can continue to welcome those of differing sexualities with as much warmth (or even indifference, which is perhaps the preferred route; a figure’s sexuality shouldn’t even matter in the first place) as was met by his announcement. Story link.
Kovalchuk Traded to New Jersey
The face of the Atlanta Thrashers for essentially the franchise’s existence and one of the league’s most dangerous scorers has fled to the swamp. Kovalchuk’s rejection of a ridiculous contract offer was by no means a surprise: it means that by demanding a trade out of perennially-mediocre Atlanta he either cares more about winning than losing, or that he thinks he’ll get more on the open market (or both). Devils fans can enjoy a few months of stardom before a likely bolt to free agency, and Thrashers fans can only shake their heads and wonder when this team will ever be consistently good enough to keep talent. Maybe the Kansas City Royals have some tips. Story link.
Gainey Gone as GM
Habs GM Bob Gainey stepped down from his official duties today, having been reassigned to a “special advisor” position with the club. I don’t have much to comment on this, except to say that a good friend of mine bleeds bleu, blanc et rouge, and that he was so dissatisfied with Gainey’s tenure as GM that this will likely be met with more cheer than New Orleans could possibly muster the day after their Super Bowl win. Thoughts? Story link.
Ken Hitchcock, purveyor of usually-decent teams and angsty Russians, was fired last week as coach of the Columbus Blue Jackets. He had a pretty good run with the team, finished off by an atrocious 2009-10 campaign which has so far been marked by, among other things, the effective defection (wow that was fun to type) of an enigmatic talent, the cliff-jumping of Steve Mason and the consistently puzzling ineptitude of the team as a whole. Not bad for Ken, though, as he can now fully focus his efforts on the Olympic games, where he’ll assist Mike Babcock behind Canada’s bench. Even less of an excuse if Canada doesn’t win Gold. Story link.