THE CANADIAN PRESS
ANAHEIM, Calif. — 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 still had plenty to say Thursday.
In a careful, measured statement, Burke said he had no intention of defying the league but did address some of Lowe’s recent stinging comments about three of his players and his 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 took the rare step of stepping between the two, warning them both during a conference call that they would face significant fines if they didn’t end their war of words.
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 feud between the two general managers has been going on for a year.
Burke criticisms of Lowe began last July after the Oilers made a US$21.25-million, five-year offer sheet to restricted free agent Dustin Penner and the Ducks did not match it. Burke has repeatedly blamed Lowe and the Penner offer sheet for spiralling salaries on young restricted free agents.
Lowe finally shot back at Burke last Friday during an interview on Edmonton radio station The Team 1260.
On Thursday, Burke responded to some of those comments.
The Anaheim GM took offence to Lowe’s assertion that "he’s in a pathetic hockey market where they can’t get on any page of the newspaper let alone the front page of the sports… ."
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 can 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 US$26.625-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.
"It is our understanding that clubs are not entitled to express interest in the services of a player belonging to another NHL organization," said Burke. "Our understanding is that such an expression of interest constitutes tampering. We have asked the league to investigate whether a tampering episode has taken place."
Lowe also referred to Ducks prospect Bobby Ryan as a "questionable pick" at No. 2 overall in the 2005 NHL entry draft.
Burke called Ryan a "wonderful young prospect."
"I think for Bobby Ryan to have been dragged into this in any way or criticized in any way goes outside what we believe the treatment of players should receive."
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."