Quinn was on the money

AL STRACHAN -- Toronto Sun

, Last Updated: 9:28 AM ET

When Pat Quinn lived in Toronto, years would pass before he would condescend to be interviewed on radio.

But back home in Vancouver, he does it with some frequency, and on one such occasion recently said: "I don't know who defines success today, but we have a lot of those middle-managers, so to speak, the presidents, that don't have a clue what's going on, but might be able to build a logo."

PRETENDERS

He was probably talking about Richard Peddie, the primary "middle manager" of Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment, although he subsequently denied it. But whether he was or he wasn't, Quinn absolutely is right.

The latest case in point -- and there are many -- is the charade currently being acted out by the Florida Panthers, who are pretending Mike Keenan suddenly resigned as general manager on the weekend.

Panthers CEO Michael Yormark -- he's the guy who implemented the bright idea of charging fans to walk on to team property if they parked their cars elsewhere -- actually went so far as to say of Keenan, "This is something he had been thinking about for some time. There were some things he wanted to accomplish over the summer. He did that and felt he had done everything he could to get this franchise to where it is today."

Right.

What Keenan "wanted to accomplish over the summer" was to build a strong team despite the economic shackles placed upon him by owner Alan Cohen.

Keenan wasn't allowed to pay market value for Roberto Luongo, the best young goalie in the game, perhaps because Cohen, Yormark and a few of the other middle managers decided that goaltending isn't really important in hockey.

So despite having his back to the wall, Keenan pulled off a brilliant deal with the Vancouver Canucks -- winger Todd Bertuzzi, goalie Alex Auld, defenceman Bryan Allen and a sixth-round pick in 2007 for Luongo, defenceman Lukas Krajicek and a sixth-round pick in this past June's draft.

The trade may not have made all eight Panthers fans in south Florida happy, but this much is absolutely certain: It had the whole-hearted approval of every hockey person in the Florida organization. And it was highly regarded by hockey professionals as well.

On other matters, the Florida hockey group wasn't as unanimous.

Jacques Martin wanted to continue coaching in his defence-above-all fashion. Keenan didn't want him to do so. In fact, he didn't really want him to coach at all.

IMPASSE

In most corporations in the non-hockey world, this kind of impasse is settled by acquiescence to the specialists with the proven track record. Keenan has won a Stanley Cup as a coach. He is the only coach to win two Canada Cups. He is the only coach in most people's lifetime to get the Chicago Blackhawks to the Stanley Cup final. He has made brilliant moves as a general manager -- which is how the Canucks got Bertuzzi in the first place.

Conversely, Martin's list of accomplishments stops at a couple of playoff collapses with the Ottawa Senators.

So in the non-hockey world, Keenan would win the battle.

But in hockey, owners and their minions somehow feel the need to stick their noses in, as if they had the slightest clue about the game.

They don't, of course.

Hockey is a world all its own, especially at the National Hockey League level. General managers see and know things no fan ever comes close to grasping.

They don't just follow the sport, they live it.

It is not a game to them. It is an intricate, nuance-filled, intense battle to which all other aspects of life are sacrificed.

But somehow, owners feel that because they have been successful in real estate or junkyards or oil or some such endeavour, they know more about hockey than the people they hired to run the hockey operation.

Cohen is not the only offender. Any fan knows who the others are -- and if he or she doesn't they just have to look at the standings from the bottom up.

As Quinn also said on Vancouver radio: "Let the people that are given the job to run the hockey team, let them run it."


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