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Calgary Flames acting GM encourages students to take risks when practicing law

Brian Burke tells students to practice ethically, honestly and with heart
January 22, 2014
Brian Burke, president of hockey operations and acting general manager of the Calgary Flames, speaks to students in the Faculty of Law.

Brian Burke, president of hockey operations and acting general manager of the Calgary Flames, speaks to students in the Faculty of Law. Photo by Riley Brandt

Three days after the controversial game between longtime rivals Calgary Flames and Vancouver Canucks, it was standing room only in Murray Fraser Hall for a public lecture by Brian Burke, president of hockey operations and acting general manager of the Calgary Flames. But Burke was not here to talk about what happened last Saturday night, or the suspensions and fines that have followed...well, not exactly.

"I'm not happy with the fine that Coach Hartley received," said Burke. "Especially since we all know the Canucks started it."

All joking aside, Burke brought words of sage advice to law students looking to break into the world of sports law following graduation, an area of the law that is statistically very hard to be successful in.

"Don't be afraid to take chances when you start practicing law," said Burke. "My theory has always been to work as hard as I can and to explore all of my options so I can do multiple things throughout my career."

"Sports and entertainment law is a very specialized area of the law," said Shannon Davidson, second-year JD student and president of the Sports and Entertainment Law Society (SELS). "Brian Burke has been around the NHL for a long time, and being able to share his knowledge of how the law works in terms of professional sports leagues and athletes is a very valuable experience for students."

Burke encouraged students to look beyond the talent side of sports law, which is just the tip of the iceberg in the industry. He discussed legal options in the areas of human resources, broadcast services and media, and even the law firms that help to buy and sell professional sports teams. He also reminded students of the importance of giving back to the community throughout their professional lives. As Burke stated, "When you're a practicing lawyer, make sure you are giving back to your community, practice ethically, honestly and with heart."

The event also raised money for an organization close to Burke's heart, the You Can Play Project, dedicated to ensuring equality, respect and safety for all athletes, without regard to sexual orientation. Kent Davidson, managing partner of the Edmonton and Calgary offices of Miller Thomson LLP was on hand to present a $1,000 cheque to the organization, and donation jars around the room raised more than $250.

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