After spending the last three seasons serving as the President of Hockey Operations for the Pittsburgh Penguins, Brian Burke will reportedly take his services outside the NHL for the first time since 1987. Breaking the news, Ian Kennedy of The Hockey News could not confirm if Burke would be the new President of the Player’s Union, but only that he would be taking a leadership role for the next several seasons.
This is another major step forward for professional women’s hockey in North America, continuing the momentum that started when the Premier Hockey Federation was purchased by the Mark Walter Group on June 30, 2023, creating a unified professional women’s hockey league that will start operations in January 2024. Kennedy theorizes that with Burke now at the helm of the PWHLPA, the league will grow faster than previously expected, and lead to more NHL involvement down the line.
Burke’s career history speaks for itself, serving in high-level roles with the NHL (1993-1999), Vancouver Canucks (1987-1992, 1999-2004), Anaheim Ducks (2005-2009, 2013), Toronto Maple Leafs (2009-2013), Calgary Flames (2013-2019), and finally the Penguins (2020-2023).
His longstanding time in the NHL has not been without controversy, especially during his time in Toronto and Pittsburgh, where media scrutiny of his direction of each team was a major reason for his ouster as a team executive on both occasions. Nevertheless, with a new era starting in professional women’s hockey in North America, Burke’s connection to the NHL and its teams, aided by his knowledge accrued over the past three decades, should help the sport grow significantly in the upcoming years.