Burke carefully responds to Lowe charges
Defends Ducks' fan base, considers tampering charges against Oilers GM
Brian Burke says he will abide by the NHL's request to end his criticism of Kevin Lowe and the Edmonton Oilers, but the Anaheim Ducks general manager wanted the last word on Thursday.
In a careful, measured statement, Burke took aim at some of Lowe's recent stinging comments about three Ducks players and the Anaheim hockey market.
"There is no question in our mind or defiance about the league's authority here," Burke said in the statement first read to Ducks beat writers on a conference call and then posted on the NHL club's website. "We accept their authority to stop this and we intend to stop it.
"However, several things were said last Friday that I believe need to be addressed."
On Monday, NHL commissioner Gary Bettman warned both men to quit taking shots at each other or face significant fines.
Oilers spokesman J.J. Hebert said Thursday that the team would comply.
"We will be respecting the league's request and will not be discussing this matter any further," he said.
The public year-long spat between Burke and Lowe was resurrected on July 3. In an interview with the Los Angeles Times, the Ducks GM claimed a pair of offer sheets doled out by Lowe last summer set the tone for the madness of this year's market.
Burke's comments referred to Lowe's inking of Buffalo restricted free agent Thomas Vanek to a seven-year, $50-million US offer sheet, which the Sabres matched. Later, the Oilers signed Ducks forward Dustin Penner to a five-year deal worth $21.25 million US offer sheet, which drew Burke's ire based on the potential inflationary ripple effects the offer could have across the NHL.
Burke has repeatedly blamed Lowe and the Penner offer sheet for spiralling salaries on young restricted free agents.
More than $300 million was spent on contracts when the free-agent season opened on July 1.
Three days later, Lowe fired back at Burke on Hockey Night in Canada Radio after Burke's latest claim that some of Lowe's moves have helped escalate player salaries.
"The Wizard of Oz. He's back at it again," Lowe said. "When you pull back the curtain there's not much substance there.
"I know that [the Ducks] are in a pretty pathetic hockey market and they can't quite get on the front page of the news, and maybe that's part of it, I'm not sure."
Burke, whose team won the Stanley Cup last year, said his club has nothing to be defensive about or apologize for.
"More important, we believe our fan base is as supportive, as rabid and as loyal as any fan base in pro sports, not just in the National Hockey League," he said. "We've played to 77 straight sellouts. I believe that is the third-best string in the NHL."
Burke went on to say that no one could question the "commitment, support and loyalty" of Ducks fans and that the team has succeeded in attracting fans in a crowded sports market.
Burke also focused on star winger Corey Perry, who recently signed a $26.6-million, five-year contract and also was mentioned by Lowe last week.
"Anaheim has decent players — Corey Perry is a hell of a player," Lowe told the radio station. "What I really want to say about his (Burke's) bickering about parity and the salary cap is if you're unhappy about them, then trade him (Perry) our way, we'll be glad to have him."
Burke has asked the league to consider tampering charges against Lowe.
Burke was also offended by Lowe's comments about veteran Ducks defenceman Scott Niedermayer.
"Don't even ask me about Scott Niedermayer," Lowe said in the interview. "I've already lowered myself in terms of [talking about] how they acquired him. That's a story for another day …"
Burke says there was nothing fishy about the way the Ducks acquired Niedermayer.
"We signed Scott Niedermayer as a free agent in the summer of 2005," said the Ducks GM. "There were no allegations of impropriety of any kind at that time. Now an impression has been created that there was impropriety.
"We have asked the National Hockey League to conduct a full investigation into the signing of Scott Niedermayer. Once they have done so, we expect to be exonerated of any misconduct and then we expect the league to act appropriately."
With files from the Canadian Press