Brian Burke impressed with Golden Knights

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Flames executive praises GM George McPhee

OLDS – The NHL’s latest expansion team, the Las Vegas Golden Knights, are right near the top of the league, which is where they should be, given the breaks they received and smart decisions they made, a speaker in Olds said.

Calgary Flames president of hockey operations Brian Burke made that comment Friday, Feb. 2.

He and Craig MacTavish, vice-president of hockey operations for the Edmonton Oilers, participated in a hot stove session during the Every Kid Every Community speaker series at the Pomeroy Inn & Suites. It was a fundraiser for minor hockey, the Olds Grizzlys and Olds College Broncos hockey.

“First off, they should be better than any expansion team. They got far more liberal expansion draft rules. They were allowed to make trades going in. No expansion team ever did that,” Burke said.

“They came in alone; most expansion teams came in pairs. And they got to choose the eighth or ninth best player off your team.”

Burke said it’s his understanding the Golden Knights have 14 players on their team that were first- or second-round picks.

“They’ve done a bunch of things right, too. They’ve set up for the draft. They’ve got 11 picks in this draft and there are seven rounds in the draft. For the Oiler fans in the room, that means they have four extra picks in this draft,” he said.

“Their GM is a veteran guy. George McPhee’s a smart guy. They hired a first-rate coach and they were playing with house money,” he said, noting as an expansion team, they weren’t expected to do well.

“Not to use a poor pun, but they had nothing to lose coming out of the gate.”

Golden Knights officials have “done a really good job,” Burke said.

“They’re taking advantage of the whole Las Vegas scene and the Cirque du Soleil.”

But he wonders what will happen in a couple of years when an NFL expansion team comes to that city.

“They’ve got a major challenge when that happens. They’re going to have a major, major siphoning off of revenue; especially for the high-ticket venues like suites,” Burke said.

“This happened in Nashville. We put a team in Nashville when there was no NFL team there, and they would have done great. The NFL came a year-and-a-half later and Nashville’s just recovering from that, 20 years later.

“So we’re not done in Vegas. We’ll see how they survive that challenge. But congratulations to them. What they’ve done is amazing.”

Brian Burke, Calgary Flames president of hockey operations

“Not to use a poor pun, but they had nothing to lose coming out of the gate.”

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Doug Collie joined the Olds Albertan in 2014 as editor. He covers municipal politics, news, community events, arts and entertainment and sports happening in and around Bowden and Olds.