Uncertain whether he wanted to sign Bieksa following the defenseman’s senior season at Bowling Green, Burke invited him to the Manitoba Moose (AHL). His first night with the club, Burke recalled, the 6-foot-1-inch Bieksa didn’t play, but that night he joined his new teammates at a local pub.
“He’s in there, having a good time, and he bumps the table of another of our kids, Fedor Fedorov,” said Burke. (Fedorov, brother of the better known Sergei, is now back in Russia, playing for Yaroslavl.) “Well, one thing leads to another, and Fedorov, a pretty good-sized kid [6 foot 3 inches, 230 pounds], asks Bieksa if he wants to take it outside. So, Bieksa’s a willing kid, and says, ‘Sure, let’s go!’ “
Out to the parking lot the two went, and according to Burke, Bieksa KO’d the bigger Fedorov with one punch.
“Down and out!” recalled Burke. “The next day, I’m talking to [assistant GM Steve Tambellini], and I guess Bieksa was all worried about it, saying to Tamby, “Oh, geez, I’m all done, Burkie’s going to be really [steamed], I show up and knock out one of his own guys.’ I listen to Tamby and I say, ‘Are you kidding me? I love that. Sign him—today!’