clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

Canucks fire long time head athletic trainer Mike Burnstein

For the second straight day, the Vancouver Canucks made a shuffle inside their organization, this time axing 20-year veteran head athletic trainer Mike Burnstein.

Courtesy of the Vancouver Canucks

At this rate, FIN could be the next casualty.

Rumblings leaked out today that long time head trainer Mike Burnstein had been relieved of his duties, according to an article published in the Vancouver Province by Canucks beat writer Jason Botchford.

Born in Hamilton, ONT, Burnstein landed a dream position in 1987 as a 16-year old kid when Team Canada was playing in the Canada Cup inside the Copps Coliseum. Burnstein happened to be in the right place at the time and was fortunate enough to get a gig as the stick/towel/water boy for star studded Canadian lineup the featured the likes of Wayne Gretzky, Mario Lemieux and Paul Coffey. It wouldn't be the final time Burnstein would be witnessing such elite Canadian hockey talent live first hand.

As a kid, Burnstein would hang around the rink-- known as the common term "rink rat" -- and watched his older brother's team practise. The goaltender of the team quickly picked up on this inquisitive young fellow and realized that he could be a perfect little handyman to take care of the all of the meticulous and imperative tasks for the team -- modifying helmets, sharpening skates, tapping guys up, preparing the water bottles, working on sticks or anything else equipment related. Burnstein instantly became a valuable member of the team and developed a deep passion for this side of the game.

Burnstein saw the writing on the wall that he could make a great living career in this industry, so he focused on the medical aspect of it and made a wise decision by enrolling into Sheridan College.

After landing an internship with the Hamilton Canucks -- the Canucks AHL squad that only lasted from 1992-1994 -- Burnstein became the lead trainer for the Canucks minor league affiliate. The Hamilton Canucks folded in 1994, and that's when Burnstein managed to luck out and catch his big break. Burnstein was hired by the big club and headed out West as a 24-year-old, as the team was fresh off the Game 7 loss to the New York Rangers in the 1994 Stanley Cup final.

"Three-quarters of the team was older than me," Burnstein told The Hamilton Spector's Scott Radley in this 2013 article.

Burnstein saw the 1994 team struggle and eventually crumble down when Mike Keenan took over in 1997 after Pat Quinn and Tom Renney were fired. Those years of early mornings, conflicts between the trainers, players and the coaching staff, and all those unexpected injuries put Burnstein in a tough spot on whether he should remove player x from the game or keep him in the action allowed Burnstein to find his identity in the dressing room.

"I’m a bearer of bad news nine times out of 10," Burnstein joked when he told Radley about how players would try to hide from Mike when they saw him coming.

He was able to slug it out through those dreadful late 90's seasons when players and coaches were constantly being moved in and out of town. Luckily for Mike, he survived the multiple turnovers and saw first hand the Canucks turn their franchise around in the early 2000's with Marc Crawford at the helm, lead by fan favourites Markus Naslund and Todd Bertuzzi.

The most memorable hockey moment in Burnstein's career will surely be just over five years ago when Burnstein was able to witness Canada's most elite hockey players first hand, once again, but this time in the city of Vancouver for the 2010 Olympics. Being the official head athletic trainer of the host city's most predominant sports franchise, Burnstein was chosen to be Hockey Canada's head athletic trainer alongside fellow equipment manager Patt O'Neill.

Courtesy of the Vancouver Canucks

Burnstein saw a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity with a front-row ticket on the bench when Wayne Gretzky fed Mario Lemieux to win the Canada Cup. 23 years later, Burnstein would see Sidney Crosby take a feed from Jarome Iginla down-low and beat Ryan Miller to win the gold medal on home soil.

"To do an Olympics in Canada in your city was a pretty great experience," Burnstein said.

And from then on, Burnstein never looked back. On March 18, 2013, Burnstein took part in his 1500th career game behind the Vancouver Canucks bench.

Yet, how ironic it is to see Trevor Linden preach Mike Burnstein in the video above, only to fire him a little more than two years later.

Burnstein worked with over 200 players in his tenure in Vancouver and saw 8 different head coaches and 5 general managers. Mike worked with Team Canada in 1987, 1991, 1998, 1999, 2005 and 2010. He's an executive board member of the Professional Hockey Athletic Trainers Society. He currently resides in White Rock and lives with his wife, Nicole, and kids, Abbey and Lukas.

It's expected that Joe Sanderson, assistant athletic trainer, and Dr. Rick Celebrini, a world renowned orthopedic physiotherapist, will take over the responsibilities of Burnstein.

There could be a few reasons as to why Canucks management feels the need to cut ties with members of their hockey operations and training staff. The first being that it certainly wasn't the smoothest year for initial diagnosis of Canucks injures; Zack Kassian, Brad Richardson and Ryan Miller all generated a significant amount of curiosity from the fans and media as to what was really up with their respective injuries. Was there a potential riff between one of the players, or player's agents with Burnstein or a member of the Canucks coaching staff, team doctors or management? It's definitely possible -- just think back to the whole Cody Hodgson misdiagnosed back situation (oddly enough, Kassian suffered from a bad back this past season). A second and highly more likely scenario is that Franseco Aquilini is making significant financial cuts to his staff as it's widely anticipated that the Canucks will miss out on the playoffs next season and Aquilini will lose out on any playoff revenue, not to mention season ticket reneawels and merchandise by trading away fan favourite and likeable personalities in Eddie Lack, Kevin Bieksa and Zack Kassian. 20 years of Mike Burnstein adds up financially, and this makes a ton of sense when you consider that Eric Crawford, Laurence Gillman and Lorne Henning were let go yesterday.

I can safely speak for all Canucks fans and say thank you for all the years you gave the Canucks organization, Mike!

Why do you think Mike Burnstein was fired? Is this a slap in the face to Burnstein for all the tremendous hard work he's done for the team over the past 20 years? Or a greater oppourtunity for him to seek a more sophisticated occupation else where? And do you think Trevor Linden, Jim Benning and Franseco Aquilini have a mandate to wipe the slate clean? Could we be seeing more cuts to the Canucks operations and staff soon? Vote in the poll question or leave a comment below.