Fans have little reason to start getting nervous

ERIC FRANCIS, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 9:57 AM ET

He's known citywide simply as Hank.

He's known league-wide as the CFL's most valuable commodity.

Yet, the Calgary Stampeders opened training camp yesterday without having inked Henry Burris to the contract extension all parties suggested would be a slam dunk this winter.

Yesterday, ol' Hank, who has one year left on a deal worth just under $400,000, reiterated he wasn't concerned and that negotiations would move along quickly now that he was back at work.

While there's little reason to be concerned, one has to wonder what the hang up has been.

Coming off a career year and clearly in the midst of his prime, the Grey Cup MVP is certainly in line to become the league's highest paid pivot at just under $500,000.

Anyone who questions his worth might want to imagine the team's prospects opening next season without the 34-year-old franchise pivot.

After years of question marks, Burris now clearly holds the hammer in negotiations. But he's too good a person and leader to risk crippling the organization by demanding money that would force cuts elsewhere like, say, amongst his prized receivers.

While few want to look past this year's Grey Cup game at McMahon Stadium, you can bet ownership is focused on getting the quarterback inked long term.

If it doesn't happen before opening day (July 1) then -- and only then -- should fans start to worry.

Now more notes, quotes and anecdotes from a sports world wondering if Evgeni Malkin's playoff brilliance is such that he'll get the Conn Smythe nod even if the Pens lose.

AROUND THE HORN

The headline screaming across the front page of the National Post's sports section last Monday read: Tragedy in Paris. The story below was about Rafael Nadal's first French Open loss in five years. On the very same day a plane bound for Paris plummeted into the Atlantic Ocean, killing all 228 people on board. Let this be yet another lesson that the word tragedy should never be used to describe the outcome of a game ... The only thing sillier than talk of Chris Osgood being an Olympic hopeful is the suggestion Marc-Andre Fleury should also get a look ... Finally something good to come out of the Sean Avery incident: Joe Nieuwendyk is hired to replace the two men who allowed the Stars to be poisoned by the egomaniac ... Scary words from Jack Nicklaus as Tiger Woods warmed up for next week's U.S. Open with another dramatic win at the Memorial yesterday: "I dare say this may be his best week of driving ever."

PARTING GIFTS

The Edmonton Oilers are looking for their first mascot and are willing to train and pay $12 an hour to anyone who enjoys "greeting/working with families and the general public." No experience necessary and the costume is supplied. Might we finally see Craig MacTavish quietly join the fraternity he once alienated with a vicious tongue-lashing? ... Sadly, Jim Playfair never stopped blaming the media for his removal as Flames coach and was never seen the same way by the players or anyone else at the Dome afterwards. That said, the B.C. product is a great fit for the Abbotsford Heat ... Don't think for a second the Flames re-signed backup goaltender Curtis McElhinney to a two-year deal simply because they have little money to spend. It's important to note the players are constantly in awe of the 26-year-old's talents in practice and eagerly anticipate the day when his game-day performances mirrors his skill set ... It was indeed predicted in this space two months ago the second-seeded Wings would beat the fourth-seeded Penguins in a six-game Cup final. In related news, Maggie the Monkey predicted Anaheim would make it to the 2003 final.


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