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Former Leafs GM Burke files defamation suit

Toronto Maple Leafs general manager Brian Burke attends the year end press briefing in Toronto on Tuesday, April 10, 2011. Burke has filed a lawsuit saying he was defamed in online comments accusing him of having an affair with a sports reporter. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chris Young

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Toronto Maple Leafs general manager Brian Burke attends the year end press briefing in Toronto on Tuesday, April 10, 2011. Burke has filed a lawsuit saying he was defamed in online comments accusing him of having an affair with a sports reporter. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chris Young

VANCOUVER - Former Toronto Maple Leafs general manager Brian Burke has filed a lawsuit with B.C. Supreme Court, saying he was defamed in online comments accusing him of having an extra-marital affair with a sports reporter.

Burke alleges the online comments published by 18 people, whose identities are unknown to him, are untrue.

Burke's statement of claim says the online comments were widely circulated on social media. His statement says the online remarks claim that Burke was fired as the president and general manager of the Toronto Maple Leafs because what the comments say was a sexual relationship with Rogers Sportsnet reporter Hazel Mae.

"Contrary to popular belief, the reason for Burke's firing was not his willingness to pull off the Roberto Luongo trade..." says one of the comments noted in the court documents. "Well it didn't take long for Brian Burke and Hazel Mae to hook up. In the summer of 2012, Sportsnet removed her from the glass desk because she wouldn't fit, insisting that she stand while on air."

According to the statement of claim, the online postings went on to suggest that Mae was pregnant, and that the "lucky dad" is Burke.

In a statement released on Friday, Burke's lawyer Peter Gall said the comments, allegedly made under pseudonyms such as "Slobberface" and "Mowerman," are false and defamatory, and that they have hurt both Burke's and Mae's families.

"Brian has decided that it is time to stop people who post comments on the Internet from thinking they can fabricate wild stories with impunity," Gall said. "Brian is determined to find the authors of the lie about him and those who have circulated the lie."

The court documents say Burke is suing for losses and damages to his reputation. His lawyer is also seeking to have each of the 18 defendants restrained from publishing the statements on the Internet.

None of the claims have been proven in court, and a statement of defence has not been filed.

Burke, who is married to CTV News Channel anchor Jennifer Burke, was fired as the general manager of the Leafs in January. The former Vancouver Canucks general manager is now the part-time scout for the Anaheim Ducks.

Iain MacKinnon, who represents Mae, said in an email Saturday that his client supports Burke's legal action.

"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," MacKinnon said.

"Ms. Mae is still considering all of her legal options. She will not be commenting further on the matter at this time."

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