Brian Burke says Flames will 'just leave' without new arena

Calgary Flames’ president of hockey operations Brian Burke. (Larry MacDougal/CP)
Calgary Flames’ president of hockey operations Brian Burke. (Larry MacDougal/CP)

For a team that said it would never use the threat of relocation to get a new arena, the Calgary Flames seem to make a lot of threats.

Brian Burke was the latest to invoke relocation during his speech at a Canadian Club of Calgary business luncheon Wednesday.

“We’re not going to make the threat to leave. We’ll just leave,” Burke said.

Flames president and CEO Ken King issued a statement on Burke’s comments Wednesday evening.

Via the Calgary Flames:

“Brian Burke runs Hockey Operations for the Calgary Flames and he and many Calgarians have strong views about this topic. However, he is not our spokesperson regarding a new events centre for our city. We remain committed to our dialogue with the City and very optimistic we will get to a positive conclusion. We admire everyone’s enthusiasm on this subject.”

It’s the second time King has been forced to make a statement over relocation “non-threats,” the first coming after he made similar comments during an interview with Sportsnet 590 The Fan in Toronto.

“There would be no threat to move, we would just move, and it would be over. And I’m trying my level best to make sure that day never comes, frankly,” King said in late March.

The Flames and the City of Calgary have been discussing plans for a new arena for several years now, with an official proposal being tabled in August 2015.

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The private-public proposal, called CalgaryNEXT, is for a multi-purpose sports complex in West Village that would include a 20,000-seat arena for the Flames and WHL’s Calgary Hitmen, along with a 30,000-seat football stadium and field house. It was estimated to cost $890 million, although a report issued by the City of Calgary last April said the total cost would be closer to $1.8 billion, with taxpayers picking up roughly two-thirds of the tab.

Calgary Mayor Naheed Nenshi expressed concerns over the proposed funding and location for CalgaryNEXT, and it has since been put on life support with city council unanimously voting in support of an alternative proposal for a new arena near the Saddledome in late April. When Detroit’s Little Caesars Arena opens in September, the Saddledome, which opened in 1983, will become the oldest arena in the NHL.

Relocation threats are old hat during these type of negotiations. Remember when Oilers owner Daryl Katz threatened to move the team to Seattle? Good times.

Like the Oilers, the Flames aren’t going anywhere, either. But it’s not surprising to see Calgary’s billionaire owners trying to leverage that fear.