TORONTO - Okay, letís get this out of the way: Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment Ltd. President Richard Peddie guarantees that the Leafs will make the playoffs this season.
ďAbsolutely,Ē Peddie said, when asked if he was certain about his prediction. ďBut I guess Burkieís going to kill me now.Ē
I donít get it. Everyone seems to cower around Leafs GM Brian Burke these days. Sure, he growls and barks and snarls. But so does the dog next door. Then again, the dog next door is closer to winning a Stanley Cup than Burkie is.
Hey, Iím just kidding. Burkie has the Leafs on the right track. Theyíve got two great, young goalies, a solid core on defence and a gifted goal scorer up front. All they need is 11 more quality forwards and the parade is on.
I caught up with Peddie at Maple Leaf Square on Saturday, where MLSEL was throwing a street party in celebration of ... well, Iím not sure what they were celebrating. They havenít won anything. The cynic in me figures the party was a ruse to sell condos.
ďThis is a way for the organization to thank our loyal fans,Ē one of the MLSEL media guys said.
I suggested that winning a few games might be a good way to thank your fans. But, hey, what do I know about selling condos.
But youíve to give Peddie credit. The MLSEL poobah was a good enough sport to take his turn in the dunk tank, though he was able to do only one session because he hurt his back falling into the water. I kid you not. The man was in pain.
I asked Peddie who was next in the tank.
ďWell, Burkie was supposed to be here,Ē he said. ďBut heís out shooting something. I think itís caribou this time.Ē
I guess if Burkie isnít signing big, dumb animals, heís hunting them.
The MLSEL media boys had a tough time finding guys for the dunk tank after Peddie bailed. One guy they threw in was Chris Hebb, the VP of Broadcasting. But who the hell wants to dunk Chris Hebb? No offence to Hebb. Iím sure heís a nice guy and everything. But the whole idea of dunking someone is to get back at them, so to speak.
I can see fans being sour with Peddie or Burkie or Raptors GM Bryan Colangelo, and wanting to dunk them. But Chris Hebb?
I couldnít take the excitement of the dunk tank any longer, so I decided to wander around a little. I noticed a referee on stilts, confirming my belief that all referees are clowns.
Then I wandered over to the autograph booth and saw that there was huge lineup to get Cody Fransonís autograph. The line almost went right to Lake Shore Blvd. You know this town is Leafs crazy when 100 people line up to get Cody Fransonís autograph. Again, nothing against Cody Franson, who could be a nice fit on the Leafs blue line this season. But heís no Aki Berg.
I noticed that most of the people at the party were wearing Leafs or Raptors shirt, and there werenít many wearing TFC sweaters. Then again, the event started at 10 a.m., and most TFC fans are drunk by then.
Another one of the eventís attractions was a trailer set up inside to look like the Leafs dressing room. And boy was it authentic. It looked exactly like the real Leafs dressing room right after a game.
That is, there wasnít a player to be found anywhere.
Down from the trailer was a tent where fans where able to have their picture taken with the coveted Voyageurs Cup. Iím not sure what the Voyageurs Cup is, but I think the Toronto Sun fastball team won it back í91, when hockey writer Lance Hornby was the manager.
As I headed toward the exit, I spotted Cody Franson being whisked away by some security guys. He appeared to be in a daze, no doubt because he had just been asked by hundreds of fans for an autograph. That doesnít happen in Nashville.
Then former Raptors favourite Muggsy Bogues sat down in the autograph booth. You have to get Muggsy credit. He chatted with pretty well every fan, including one dimwit who asked him to sign his Muggsy Bogues jersey.
ďI got it half-price,Ē the guy said.
Muggsy didnít look impressed.