Hey, what happened to accessibility?

STEVE SIMMONS -- Toronto Sun

, Last Updated: 8:49 AM ET

This is John Ferguson's first real training camp in charge of the Maple Leafs and we suggest a change in title is in order.

Rather than refer to him as general manager he should be called micro-manager.

There are, at camp, rules for this, rules for that and sign, sign, everywhere a sign: Do this, don't do that, can't you read the sign?

Pat Quinn was and is a control freak when it comes to the environment of his hockey team. Ferguson is all that and a bucket of pucks.

This is supposed to be the new user-friendly National Hockey League. That was the sell, remember. The great new partnership.

And now, that we're all back in business together -- players, management, media (quick now, a group hug) -- the goal was to grow this great game of ours in the best interest of revenue, salaries, and circulation.

Isn't that what Tie Domi told us? We're all in this together.

Only some of us are more in there than others.

And in this bold new world, there is never anything quite bold about how the Maple Leafs operate.

Maybe they haven't read the league memos or typically, because they're the Maple Leafs, maybe they just choose to ignore them.

But as you walk into Leaf camp -- and I've been walking into Leaf camps and other NHL training camps for 25 years now -- I can't remember ever seeing a camp so cordoned off and so burdened with rules that someone actually had to think long and hard to set this up.

Airport lineups aren't this organized with ropes.

Team don't get this anal naturally. It takes great effort to do so.

And everywhere you look in the Ricoh Coliseum, there is a sign indicating something -- more than 20 of them reading TEAM ACCESS ONLY, and the word "only" is underlined, just in case nobody noticed what that happened to indicate.

The way the arena is set up, fans sit on one side of the Coliseum, team personnel sit in their own section on the other side of the ice and media are banished to another section. Most interaction between team personnel and those covering the Leafs is strictly coincidental.

The days of sitting and watching camp with Cliff Fletcher on one side of you and Bill Watters on the other are long over. But there's nothing quite like listening to a scout watching one of his young prizes in a big-league scrimmage for the first time to glean the kind of information that fans of the team relish.

Only the Leafs don't want that.

They are attempting to not only package and sell their own team -- which they do rather well -- but they are also attempting to package and sell the news.

Once upon a time, you could walk around a training camp and talk to any player you'd want. All you had to do was wait for them to finish their workouts, their skates, their rub-downs and whatever else they happen to go through on that given day. But they were there to talk -- and sometimes just to you and not a boat load of cameras.

INFORMAL

I suspect if I got in my car and drove down the QEW to Buffalo the Sabres camp would be that informal.

Just not the Leafs. Eric Lindros, as disinterested an interview subject as you might want to find, talks to an entire group in what's known in our industry as a scrum. One player at a time. One interview at a time. He says little. We ask little. But he gets on network television for doing this.

John Ferguson disagrees that there are problems with how the Leaf camp has been set up. "I'm not aware access is limited or compromised," he said. "We've opened up our camp to the public. We're keeping our camp in Toronto. We're reaching out to our fans, making it right."

Yesterday was Day 3 of Leaf camp and the first time Ed Belfour, reaching out to the fans, decided to grunt his way through the mandatory question and answer session. Belfour works hard at being excruciatingly dull and happens to be rather good at it.

On Day 2, security people spent much of the time informing people where they could and couldn't stand. That day, a Sun photographer tried to take some pictures from rinkside, which is typically how he does his job. He was told he'd have to move. He was then sent to the upper level of the Coliseum. And then he was told he'd have to move again.

Security, Ferguson said, was overzealous just not the Leafs.

"We're going out of our way to be accessible," he said. "We're doing our part."


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