|Leafs GM Brian Burke (right) appeared put out about what Don Cherry has been saying about his team on Coach's Corner. (QMI Agency/Michael Peake/Greg Henkenhaf)
PHILADELPHIA -- The two loudest and most stubborn men in hockey are claiming that all is well in their apparent war of words, while evidence to the contrary may indicate the opposite.
One day after Brian Burke said he was “sour, I can tell you that” about comments made about his Toronto Maple Leafs on Don Cherry’s Coach’s Corner segment on Hockey Night In Canada, Burke said he spoke to Cherry Thursday afternoon by telephone and indicated that “it’s no big deal, I promise.”
After Wednesday's general managers meetings in downtown Philadelphia, Burke, the president and general manager of the Maple Leafs, appeared put out about what Cherry has been saying about the Leafs and Burke on Hockey Night and indicated he would have something to say after the Stanley Cup final was over.
Never one to hold back, Burke said: “We have been getting a lot of shots on Hockey Night In Canada and I don't think the Stanley Cup finals is the appropriate place to start throwing hand grenades back.”
Those comments came before Game 3 of the Philadelphia-Chicago series.
Prior to the game, Cherry was informed about Burke’s reaction and offered up a rare no comment.
But then he didn’t choose to no comment on Hockey Night Wednesday night when it came time for his Coach’s Corner segment.
“Brian Burke’s going to get me and he doesn’t want to do it until after the playoffs. I’m shaking in my boots ...” said Cherry. “Oh boy, oooh, I’m afraid ... ,” he mocked.
The comments Cherry made came just days after going on Coach’s Corner and making fun of the Leafs’ signing a European defenceman.
“I don’t mind them saying the guy is highly skilled,” Cherry said.
“They put out (in a press release) European skilled. Meaning he's above us all. They’re not above us all and I’m going to prove it.”
In an interview Thursday, Cherry said he starting commenting on the Leafs because Burke promised he would be “pugnacious and tenacious and I don’t think he was getting pugnacious guys.”
Burke, who now says that all is fine with Cherry, has been in contact with Hockey Night executive producer, Sherali Najak, expressing his dismay with the way the Leafs have been treated by HNIC.
This isn’t Burke’s first fight with Hockey Night. Last season, he attempted to get Cherry to tone down his criticism of coach Ron Wilson.
The worst way to get Cherry to tone anything down is to ask him to do so.
Najak isn't concerned about the Leafs' criticism of Hockey Night or any impending war with their No. 1 team on TV.
“Lots of people get mad at Don for what he says,” said Najak. “He makes no bones about the fact he's a big Leaf fan. He's going to say what's on his mind. That's what Don Cherry does.
“This is something between them (Cherry and Burke). Let them handle it.”
While both Burke and Cherry say whatever miscommunication or problem they may have had is now over, others aren’t so sure.
At least one source closely connected to HNIC claims this “isn't over. It just won’t be handled for the public to see.”
For his part, Burke probably regrets going public after the GMs meetings if he intended to keep this quiet until after the Stanley Cup final.
Once he said it, it was out there for everyone, including Cherry, to respond to.
While both Burke and Cherry are known for being outspoken and occasionally hard-headed, both also have the reputation for being somewhat thin-skinned.
“I don't know who's more stubborn, him or me,” Cherry laughed. “But he's going to keep doing what he’s doing and I'm going to keep doing what I’m doing.”