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'Buy tickets, go to games': Brian Burke weighs in on women's hockey

Last Updated Oct 16, 2020 at 6:49 am MDT

Calgary Inferno's Zoe Hickel (left) celebrates with Rebecca Johnston after scoring her team's fourth goal against Les Canadiennes de Montreal, during third period action in the 2019 Clarkson Cup game in Toronto, on Sunday, March 24 , 2019.THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chris Young

CALGARY (660 NEWS) — The professional women’s hockey crossroad continues.

The world’s best players, who have formed the Professional Women’s Hockey Players Association, are focusing on a future that includes one league.

However, because of a fractured relationship with the National Women’s Hockey League and the impact of COVID-19, there isn’t a real light at the end of the tunnel.


AUDIO: Brian Burke chats women’s hockey with 660’s Sandra Prusina

 


One of the game’s biggest supporters, Brian Burke, says the National Hockey League is more than ready to get behind the women’s game.

But, there’s a caveat.

“I know it’s high on Gary Bettman’s priority list,” Burke said. “But, they’ve got to get their house in order first. The league (NHL) isn’t going to step in and help women’s hockey like they’re prepared to do until the differences between the two leagues get worked out.”

Burke knows the women’s game; he’s supported it for decades. He lists Julie Chu and Angela Ruggiero as two of his favourite players.

“My favourite player now is Rebecca Johnston,” Burke shared. “She’s a really good hockey player. She’s as good a winger as there is in terms of her ability to score and make plays. I really like watching her play.”

RELATED: ‘Great location’: Rebecca Johnston readies for PWHPA hub in Calgary

He had a bond with players, including Johnston, from the Calgary Inferno of the now-defunct Canadian Women’s Hockey League. During their final Clarkson Cup run, he took them to dinner and witnessed the team’s camaraderie.

“What a wonderful group of women,” he expressed. “They were clearly a team, clearly a tight-knit group.”

Burke was in the stands for many Inferno games but was disappointed at the lack of support for the players and the league.

“People say, ‘I support women’s hockey,’ and I’m like, ‘No, you don’t,” he explained. “I was at the Inferno game on Saturday. There were 200 people there. Don’t tell me you support it. Buy tickets. Show up at the games.

“If a guy says to me, ‘I love women’s hockey, ‘Oh yeah, who is your favourite player?’ and if you really follow women’s hockey, you’ll have a favourite player, like in the NHL.

“It’s a great product. And once they sort things out and start playing, my message to people is: don’t say you support women’s hockey unless you do. Buy tickets. Go to the games. It’s a great product.”

Burke is currently promoting his new book “Burke’s Law: A Life in Hockey,” available now.