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.

Connected is Live in London Starting July 27

A couple of Olympic-related press releases to share tonight. First up, Sportsnet has announced that Ken Reid will host the evening edition of Connected from London from July 27 through August 12. The special Olympic Connected will air for two hours, from 5-7pm ET, each night of the Games on Sportsnet immediately following Olympic Daytime. Hazel Mae, the regular evening Connected host, will take over for Jamie Campbell hosting Blue Jays broadcasts during the Games.

TSN will also broadcast an evening edition of SportsCentre from London with host Jay Onrait. It will also air from 5-7pm ET most nights during the Olympics.

Here is Sportsnet’s press release.

With 10 days remaining until the start of the London 2012 Olympic Games, Sportsnet’s Connected is packing its bags – and studio desk – for the UK to bring Canadians live coverage from downtown London of the network’s nightly news program from July 27 to Aug. 12.

Host Ken Reid will anchor Connected’s coverage from London at the Sportsnet studio located on the River Thames, with spectacular views of the iconic Tower Bridge in the background. Coverage kicks off on Friday, July 27 at 10 p.m. ET / 7 p.m. PT on Sportsnet East, Ontario, West and Pacific, immediately following the Opening Ceremony.

Reid will host a live two-hour edition of Connected every night at 5 p.m. ET/2 p.m. PT starting Saturday, July 28. Connected will keep fans in-the-know regarding all things 2012 Games-related, including highlights and recaps of each day’s events. Sportsnet reporter Ian Mendes will also file daily reports and features from London.

In addition to London 2012 Olympic Games news and highlights, Connected will remain Canada’s prime destination for all of the latest and biggest regional, national and global sports stories.

Connected on location at London 2012 complements Sportsnet’s 252.5 hours of live event coverage as part of Canada’s Olympic Broadcast Media Consortium. Other Rogers media properties that are official London 2012 broadcasters within the Consortium are OMNI Television (103 hours of event coverage), OLN (170 hours of event coverage), and Rogers Radio, which will air a daily hour-long highlights show, updates three times an hour every day during the Games, and dedicated London 2012 coverage during Prime Time Sports with Bob McCown from 6 to 7 p.m. ET each day.