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Burke and Bieksa talk Hockey Night in Canada and supporting U of R student athletes

By University Advancement and Communications Posted: March 16, 2021 6:00 a.m.

Brian Burke and Kevin Bieksa are two of the speakers at March 23’s U of R Virtual President’s Breakfast for Athletics. Burke and Bieksa will discuss their careers in hockey and working together as panelists on Hockey Night in Canada. Proceeds from the event will provide critical support for U of R student athletes.
Brian Burke and Kevin Bieksa are two of the speakers at March 23’s U of R Virtual President’s Breakfast for Athletics. Burke and Bieksa will discuss their careers in hockey and working together as panelists on Hockey Night in Canada. Proceeds from the event will provide critical support for U of R student athletes. Photos: Provided by Brian Burke and Kevin Bieksa

Two of hockey’s biggest personalities will be making an exclusive virtual appearance in support of U of R student athletes.

Brian Burke, the President of Hockey Operations for the NHL’s Pittsburgh Penguins, and Kevin Bieksa, a longtime NHL defenceman and broadcaster, are two of the three speakers at this year’s Virtual President’s Breakfast for Athletics. Tickets are now on sale for the March 23 event, which raises critical funds for U of R student athletes.

Brian Burke is a Stanley Cup winning NHL executive and former hockey analyst. Photo: Zoom

Burke and Bieksa worked together as panelists on Canada’ longest running television program, Hockey Night in Canada, before Burke left in February. The duo remain close friends and will be interviewed together as part of the Breakfast.

We caught up with Burke and Bieksa to learn more about their working relationship and the importance of the event.

So Brian, what made you leave Kevin and Hockey Night in Canada for your new role with the Penguins?

Burke: I really enjoyed who I worked for and I enjoyed the people I worked with. I guess that’s the definition of a great job. The Pittsburgh job checked too many boxes and was too good of an opportunity to pass up.

Kevin, how have you been coping without Brian?

Bieksa: This is how I cope without Burkie! [Pulls out life-sized cutout of Burke] Now I always have him looking over my shoulder with his eyes of disapproval, telling me to smarten up! It’s not the same without Burkie.

Kevin Bieksa (with Brian Burke cutout) is a Hockey Night in Canada panelist and former NHL defenceman. Photo: Zoom

What might fans not know about Hockey Night in Canada?

Burke: We are a replay driven crew and we want to show you what just happened while we explain it. We each have a microphone, and two producers are listening. They are cutting tape for us, and when we go live, we aren’t seeing things for the first time.

Bieksa: The general fan doesn’t realize what we do between periods. We all watch tape together and some of our best arguments that take place are when the cameras aren’t rolling. The producer will hear us and say, “let’s go on air and have that conversation.” There is lots of learning that goes on as I get to see how great hockey minds, like Burke or Ron McLean, read plays.

The two of you got your starts in hockey as student athletes. How did this experience set you up for success in your careers?

Burke: College was the best four years of my life, bar none! College athletics are critical. You get an education, play a sport, and maybe you move on like Kevin did, or maybe you don’t. But now you’ve got your degree and you’ve made friends for life. I’m still tight with all of the guys I played with in college. It’s a wonderful experience!

Bieksa: I wouldn’t be where I am today without my time at Bowling Green State University, which allowed me to get my education and have many options. I had four years of hockey development while I got my education and made some great friends. I would not have had the career trajectory I had without that education.

Why are events like the Virtual President’s Breakfast for Athletics so important, particularly during a pandemic?

Burke: The needs of an athletics program don’t change in a pandemic. It’s just on the revenue side and that is where you can help out. I’m waiving my speaker’s fee for this great event and I’ll come back again if they ask me. Attend the event or write a cheque. The University of Regina needs your help!

Joining Burke and Bieksa at the President’s Breakfast is snowboarder Mark McMorris. McMorris, one of Regina’s own, is among the most decorated action-sports athletes, with two Olympic medals, 20 X Games Medals, and four US Championships to his name. CTV Regina’s Claire Hanna will emcee the event. Cougars men’s hockey coach Todd Johnson is excited about hosting such passionate speakers, and the opportunities the Virtual Breakfast presents.  

“We have many U of R alumni who do not live in Regina who can now be a part of the President’s Breakfast,” says Johnson. “The crop of guest speakers we have this year would normally never be able to make it to Regina during their seasons, so it’s great to hear from such incredible personalities.”

Tickets for the Virtual President’s Breakfast for Athletics are available now for $75 until March 16 at 4 p.m. All proceeds go towards U of R Athletics and the University of Regina’s Office of the President will match all funds up to $100,000. Johnson underscored the importance of the event and how much of a difference attendees are making for U of R student athletes.
 
“The President’s Breakfast for Athletics is our biggest fundraiser,” says Johnson. “It allows our teams to pay for scholarships and program enhancement when athletics are back up and running.”

Please consider attending and providing critical support to our gifted U of R student athletes. Faculty and staff can use their APEA funds to buy tickets.
 
Learn more about the Virtual President’s Breakfast for Athletics and purchase your tickets today!

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An Interview with Mark McMorris: U of R Virtual President’s Breakfast Speaker Profile