With an empty box to fill, the good folks at Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment Ltd. could have been charitable with the Team Canada players from the World Baseball Classic but really, it just isn't their way.
Instead, when the ballplayers asked about attending last night's Leafs game, they were stunned to learn the cost for sitting in an unfilled luxury box would be $12,000. When they said the price was too high, the MLSEL people dropped the number to $7,000. When the players indicated they would need to purchase an additional 10 tickets for their group, the price leapt to more than $10,000, prompting the Team Canada players to say thanks, but no thanks.
And wouldn't it have been a nice gesture for MLSEL to welcome the Team Canada players with an invitation last night? But that's not the view of Leafs president and GM Brian Burke.
"Do you think the Yankees would give us a box if we asked for one?" Burke said. "I don't think so. So why should we?
"And if they wanted the tickets, couldn't one of the millionaires have paid for them?"
In fairness, there are 28 players on the Canadian roster. Six of them earn more than $1 million US in the major leagues.
This and that
I have covered hundreds of pro hockey players, few leaving any impact at all. Not so for Gary Roberts, who was forced into retirement this week by the classless Tampa Bay Lightning. Roberts changed hockey teams, was a pied piper-like figure for younger teammates, made every team he played on the better for it. Up close, it was remarkable to witness the influence he had, which bothered Pittsburgh coach Mike Therrien. Therrien, in fact, probably lost his job because he didn't have Roberts around this season ... Burke's phony deadline deal with Tampa for Olaf Kolzig and other concussed players essentially was a $450,000 purchase of a fourth-round draft pick. Word around is he tried to buy a second-round pick for $600,000 but couldn't find any for sale. Weird ... The smart Cliff Fletcher moves: Buying out Darcy Tucker and Andrew Raycroft, waiving Kyle Wellwood and trading Bryan McCabe. The dumb Fletcher moves: Dealing draft picks for Jamal Mayers and Ryan Hollweg and sacrificing possible picks by trading Carlo Colaiacovo and Alex Steen for the often invisible Lee Stempniak.
Hear and there
Until the Americans take it seriously, the World Baseball Classic has no chance of becoming important. Canadians care deeply about international sport. Americans care only about their own. You can't have a best-on-best tournament without Ryan Howard, Roy Halladay, CC Sabathia. The Americans had to ask 70 players to get their 28-man roster ... The real difference between American and Canadian baseball: The U.S. had to decide between Derek Jeter and Jimmy Rollins at shortstop. The Canadian shortstop, by acclamation, is Chris Barnwell ... There's something comforting about seeing Ernie Whitt in a Canadian baseball uniform, but can't imagine him managing a Phillies farm team this summer ... As demonstrated by the size of yesterday's crowd at Rogers Centre (42,314), baseball can still be alive and well in Toronto: All people want is a team they can believe in.
Scene and heard
Sunday stat: Martin Brodeur has 34 more regular-season shutouts than Patrick Roy, but Roy has one more in the post-season ... In the 100th anniversary season of the Montreal Canadiens, it suddenly is no sure thing the Habs make the playoffs ... As of yesterday, Jason Blake had more points than Eric Staal, and who would have made that bet at the beginning of the season? ... The one rule change the CFL should make -- eliminating the single point on a missed field goal -- isn't being considered.
And another thing
Gordie Howe was just about the toughest man on earth, but not toughest in his own home. There, he placed a distant second to his beloved Colleen, who passed away Friday after a lengthy illness. Condolences to Mr. Hockey and his family ... As soon as tickets for Usain Bolt in Toronto go on sale, I'm buying them ... Happy Birthday to Jim Bouton (70), Dick Allen (67), Mickey Dolenz (64), Larry Murphy (48), Rob Zettler (41) and Kenny Wheaton (34) ... And hey, whatever became of Tim Johnson?