Tamper tantrum in T.O.

The Leafs were fined by the NHL for

The Leafs were fined by the NHL for "inappropriate" comments issued by coach Ron Wilson back on June 30. (Sun Media/Michael Peake)

MIKE ZEISBERGER, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 9:20 AM ET

Battle of Ontario?

Sorry Ottawa. That's old news, especially with the snoozefest these two supposed hated foes turned in at the Air Canada Centre on Tuesday.

Maple Leafs versus Habs?

It's one of the most special matchups in all of pro sports, admittedly, along with being one of the oldest.

But now, thanks to the NHL's decision yesterday to fine the Leafs $25,000 US in the wake of tampering charges involving their alleged pursuit of the Sedin twins, welcome to the spiciest rivalry to come north of the 49th parallel in years.

Vancouver Canucks versus Toronto Maple Leafs.

Mike Gillis versus Brian Burke.

No love lost here.

Whenever the Leafs make a rare visit to the Left Coast, it is always a circus-like atmosphere, especially with the number of transplanted Ontarians now residing in beautiful B.C.

Now, with Canucks and Leafs management at bitter loggerheads, the Oct. 24 visit of the blue-and-white to GM Place will be accompanied by the type of inflated hype normally reserved for a post-season tilt.

NHL deputy commissioner Bill Daly has ordered both teams to be muzzled concerning Sedin-Gate. But Burke doesn't forget. And, in some cases, forgive.

Just ask Kevin Lowe, who was ripped by the ornery Irishman for signing Dustin Penner to an offer sheet two years ago.

The Leafs were fined for "inappropriate" comments issued by coach Ron Wilson back on June 30. At that time Wilson, speaking on The Fan 590, implied the Leafs might pursue pending unrestricted free agents Daniel and Henrik Sedin.

Unfortunately for Wilson, the Sedins still were under contract with the Canucks at the time. And, thanks to Gillis, they would stay that way, signing identical multi-year extensions just minutes before the market opened at noon July 1.

The fine is considered by many around the NHL to be a mere slap in the wrist.

Daly said a league investigation did not reveal any further improper conduct by the Leafs as part of Sedin-Gate.

Nor was Burke punished for a statement he made during a recently released Leafs TV documentary shot at the 2009 June entry draft. Burke, addressing his war room, suggests the Canucks offered Kevin Bieksa, Alex Burrows and their No. 1 pick in order to land the No. 2 overall selection, allegedly to snap up defenceman Victor Hedman.

The documentary has been a hot topic in Vancouver the past week, with the Canucks hoping the league would sanction the Leafs for Burke's comments. No such luck, although the league threatened to "impose discipline for any future inappropriate conduct on (the Leafs) part that may cause, or may reasonably be perceived to cause, damage to the Canucks' franchise, or its relationship with its existing players and/or employees."

Get the feeling Burke and Gillis won't be dining together when the Leafs arrive in Vancouver later this month?

"(The controversy) certainly makes the Leafs' visit here much more topical," former Canucks goaltender John Garrett, now an analyst on the team's Sportsnet broadcasts, said yesterday.

Consider, for a moment, the interesting subplot here.

Burke was the general manager of the Canucks, with David Nonis serving as his right-hand man. When he left, Nonis took over. And when Nonis was relieved of his duties in the off-season of 2008, Gillis was hired as his replacement.

Now Burke and Nonis are running the Leafs.

"There's a big debate on the talk shows out here," Garrett said. "Did Mike Gillis build this Canucks team? Or did he inherit it from Nonis? Or Burke?

"When Burke led Anaheim to a Stanley Cup, few people here cared. But now that he runs the Leafs they do. I don't think there is any doubt (Burke) is to be hated by Canuck fans -- except for the ones who cheer for the Leafs when they come to town.

"And there are plenty of those, believe me."

Too bad these teams meet once only a season, isn't it?


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