Leafs' Burke rips boo-birds

STEVE BUFFERY, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 10:00 PM ET

TORONTO - Really Burkie? A disgrace?

Isn’t that a bit harsh?

Maple Leafs GM Brian Burke said that, as far as he is concerned, it is “a disgrace” that some fans at the Air Canada Centre booed defenceman Dion Phaneuf on Saturday night.

“All the time I worked in Vancouver I don’t think I ever had a player booed,” said Burkie, following the first period against the Ottawa Senators on Tuesday night. “And I think it’s really unfair to Dion because of the other things he’s brought.

“The mistakes he’s making generally happen when we’re behind and he’s trying to make something happen,” Burkie added. “I think he’s given us solid defensive zone coverage. He’s almost single-handedly changed the attitude of our team and the culture of our team. And I think it’s unfair and frankly I think it’s a disgrace.”

I have no problem with Burkie sticking up for his players.

But when exactly did professional hockey players become such sensitive souls? I mean, we’re talking about booing here. As far as we know, nobody threw a dead squirrel at Phaneuf, who left Tuesday’s game against the Sens in the second period with the dreaded “lower body injury.” Isn’t booing part of professional sport?

Damn, what fun would it be if fans weren’t allowed to boo? Frankly, in my opinion, Leafs fans don’t boo enough.

I mean, Burkie, really. I’ve been raising young Bubba for three years now, and she boos me every day. I’ve gotten over it.

You want a disgrace? A disgrace is charging $200 a ticket to watch a team that hasn’t made the playoffs since 2004.

Burkie says Phaneuf has changed the attitude inside the dressing room to a tremendous extent.

And that’s great.

And he lauds Phaneuf for all the charity work he does off the ice.

Again, great.

But Burkie, you gotta understand, the fans sitting in stands want the team to score and win. They aren’t necessarily thinking about which players do what for which charity. The game program doesn’t go into great details about charity work as much as it does about goals, assists, penalties and wild stuff like that.

Listen, I might not know a helluva lot about certain things (relationships, parenting, money, clothes) ... but I do believe the fans booed Phaneuf because they’re frustrated at the team and, as captain, he has to take the brunt of it.

Isn’t that how it works?

They’re booing because they’re grumpy, having not been able to cheer on a championship team since Canada celebrated it s 100th birthday.

And they’re booing because Phaneuf’s game — before his unfortunate injury against the Sens — has been a little — how we say? — erratic. Too many bad shots, too many bad passes, too many missed assignments in the defensive zone.

And they’re booing because, despite all the promises of a bright tomorrow, the Leafs haven’t won anything since 1967. Oops, I stand corrected ... they won prestigious NHL Challenge 2003.

The fans are grumpy. And rightfully so.

Now, let me say this ... if I was filthy rich and could afford tickets and sit in the stands at the ACC, I would NOT have booed Phaneuf on Saturday night.

I figure you boo guys when they’re aren’t trying hard.

And Phaneuf, by all accounts, has been playing his ass off.

If I were a Leafs fan at the ACC, I’d boo when I paid for parking and I’d boo when I forked over a day’s pay for a beer. I’d boo the guy in charge of organizing that dopey goalie race between periods. Hell, I’d look up at the Foster Hewitt Media Gondola and boo the writers because that’s what sports writers are all about. Being booed.

But I wouldn’t have booed Phaneuf.

“We’ve got great fans and I think the vast bulk of them appreciate what he’s brought. I think it’s a small number, but I still think it’s wrong,” added Burkie. “When you buy a ticket you have a right — if it’s not profane or homophobic or racial — if you want to boo, you can boo. But I never had this once in Vancouver, where a player was singled out after 10 games, with a record over .500. I never had it.”

Well bully for Vancouver.

All I know about Vancouver is, when I go there and tell them that I’m from Toronto, they boo me.

And besides, maybe if the sports fans in Vancouver were a little more passionate, they’d still have a basketball team.


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