Burke biz a no show for HNIC

MIKE ZEISBERGER, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 9:33 AM ET

VANCOUVER -- Sitting in the stands of GM Place yesterday morning, the first slurp of stale java was actually tasting pretty good.

That is until the Brian Burke circus suddenly opened for business.

The buzz around the arena was Burke, everyone's slam dunk choice to be the next president/GM of the Toronto Maple Leafs, would attend today's game between the Leafs and the host Vancouver Canucks, the team he ran for so many years.

Minutes later came more news: Anaheim Ducks chief executive Michael Schulman had just sent a letter to the NHL giving the green light for Burke to pursue other options.

And, given the fact Richard Peddie, president of Maple Leaf Sports & Entertainment Ltd., has accompanied the team on this three-game swing through Western Canada, the conspiracy theorists were quick to connect the dots.

Maybe Peddie knew all along Burke was going to step down this week.

Maybe that's why he made this trip in the first place.

Maybe the plan from the git-go was to meet Burke in Vancouver today and get the ball rolling.

There was even one school of thought making the rounds the Leafs would announce the hiring of Burke during the Hockey Night In Canada broadcast between the Leafs and Canucks this evening, the exact coast-to-coast stage the camera-friendly executive would thrive on.

Reality check: Not going to happen.

Oh, Burke will be the new head honcho of the Leafs, barring a complete collapse in impending negotiations. It could go down by the middle to end of next week, should the haggling between the parties go well.

But not tonight here in Vancouver.

When asked by a Toronto reporter if he would be at the game tonight to announce anything, Burke replied via email: "Not a chance."

As far as being able to deal with any team which might be interested in his services, he did confirm in an email with the statement: "Good to go!"

Burke's supposed game plan is to accompany his wife to Vancouver Tuesday, then go off hunting for a couple of days. That could change should talks go smoothly. But for now, that's the course.

Reached yesterday afternoon, Peddie, who booked this trip months ago, remained mum on the Burke situation, only saying that yes, it was "official" discussions could take place with Burke without any ramifications.

Meanwhile, a source with MLSEL said nothing tangible was expected to go down over the weekend.

Peter Gall, Burke's Vancouver-based lawyer, would not set a timetable on how his client will proceed, saying the process must play itself out.

"Permission has just been granted," Gall said last night. "Now, we have to see how things unfold. It will take some time."

The common estimation for a completion date of a potential deal among those in the know seems to be 7-10 days, depending how long it takes to hammer out the fine print.

That could change, of course. Remember, the most predictable aspect of pro sports is its unpredictability.


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