Brian Burke Sues Those Who Said He Knocked Up Hazel Mae

Remember when the Leafs fired Brian Burke just before the season began in January? And remember the crazy rumours that followed of why he was fired? Consensus was he didn’t want to trade for Roberto Luongo (but neither did Nonis, seemingly?) or he had a falling out with the new ownership at MLSE. The craziest rumours had him sleeping with, and possibly getting pregnant, a MLSE staffer or Sportsnet’s Connected host Hazel Mae. Mae was on maternity leave, which only added fuel to the fire. She has since returned to Sportsnet to host the evening edition of Connected. I don’t think anybody really knows where the rumour started, but now 18 people who published it online are facing a defamation lawsuit from Burke.

Most of the 18 posts which Burke has cited in his legal documents are from various hockey forums on the internet, including the popular HFBoards as well as a few relatively unknown blogs. On a larger scale it raises questions about what can legally be posted on the internet and by who. I know that personally I never ran this story because I could find absolutely no evidence, or source, who was willing to say it was true. I knew my reputation was on the line if I did run it and it turned out incorrect. But for some random person who posts on a message board or who has no connection to sports media, it might be worth the risk. This case could set a precedent in Canada on if anonymous online material is considered defamatory.

This news doesn’t come as a complete surprise to me. Back in January Burke’s lawyers threatened Toronto Mike’s blog with a lawsuit because somebody had posted the rumour in the comments. Thankfully for Mike, who wanted no part of the rumour or lawsuit, his blog is not among those named in the lawsuit. So, it looks like Burke’s lawyers have worked on this for months. However, what I don’t understand is the timing. This story may have made the rounds in January, but I haven’t heard anything about it in months. He skipped town for a scouting job in Anaheim a month after he was fired. The story was dead.

And now its on the front page of every major news source in Canada. Seems like a PR disaster to me. Anyone who was sensible knew the story was likely untrue or greatly exaggerated. I am very interested to see where this goes, to say the least. You can see the full legal document here, courtesy of CBC Sports.

UPDATE (9:41pm, April 27): Earlier today Sportsnet sent out a media advisory containing this statement from Hazel Mae’s legal counsel Iain MacKinnon

Hazel Mae fully supports the lawsuit brought forth by Mr. Burke and feels strongly that people should be held accountable for writing and spreading malicious lies over the Internet. Ms. Mae is still considering all of her legal options.  She will not be commenting further on the matter at this time.

11 thoughts on “Brian Burke Sues Those Who Said He Knocked Up Hazel Mae

  1. You’re right; the story had died out completely. Instead of doing the sensible thing and ignoring internet rumours, Brian Burke, in one swift move, has made a complete non-story into a story once more. At this point, one could argue that he’s actually putting his family and Hazel Mae’s family through anguish bringing this up again, rather than just letting it go. I wish him luck trying to successfully sue anyone for posting a rumour online; it’s akin to suing a tabloid — in most cases, celebrities don’t bother since it would only bring further bad publicity upon themselves. If I were the judge or his lawyer, I would have told him he’s wasting his time and money. But I guess like they say: a fool and his money are soon easily parted.

    • I didn’t know. People wrongly accuse you of cheating on your wife publicly. I have no problem with him trying to clear his name. I can’t stand the guy, but I can see the merit and motivation behind this.

      • Same time dont you think the people to that know him are more likely to believe him than 18 keyboard warriors who dont matter…

  2. I’m not much of an internet tech guru, but how exactly do you find random people posting on message boards behind aliases. IP addresses can be traced I suppose but trying to prove who exactly made those remarks seems iffy. Maybe someone with more knowledge in this sort of stuff can inform me. I agree with Mike above, this was just a non-story posted on internet forums with no basis yet Burke is now essentially fueling the fire himself by attempting this lawsuit and bringing it into the media spotlight.

    • For something “basic” like this (and by basic, I mean something that isn’t being investigated by the Feds), It basically comes down to using IP addresses. Every comment on any type of forum/blog records the IP address. If I’ve commented on this blog from home and work, that’s pretty easy to find out it’s me by process of elimination.

      If I’ve commented while connected to a public wi-fi network or while using a proxy connection via wherever, well, good luck with trying to work that one out.

    • Its a grey area sure you can track there ip but to nail it down to that person who made the comment would be hard.

      • That’s just it. Tracking it down to an IP address is super easy. But being able to actually accuse a specific person is much more complicated as you mentioned, since there are proxies, public WiFi, or open WiFi access points (some people don’t password protect their routers). Also, most ISPs assign IP addresses dynamically, so your IP address doesn’t stay fixed day to day. it’s the same sort of problems that the MPAA and the RIAA run into when trying to sue file-sharers for illegal distribution of copyrighted material.

        In the end, I think it’s a futile endeavour and he’s just wasting his time and money. I’m sure his lawyer probably told him otherwise, because he knows he can make a fortune on fees arguing this case.

        • It would be hard to go after the people that posted comments just due to the tracking them down but they could sue the web site that the comments were posted on

  3. Streisand effect.

  4. It’s pretty funny to read about the lawsuit and then see how many major news sources are opting to close commenting on the story.

    Beware the wrath of Burkie! If he doesn’t beat you in court, then he’ll rent a barn and beat you there.

  5. Yes i must agree you should handle the commenter but how can you do that just by tracking the IP address.
    As there are proxies, Public WI-if as well as the PC doesn’t belong to the same person,who commented.

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