If Burke doesn't care, why does he fight?

Maple Leafs general manager Brian Burke. (ALEX UROSEVIC/QMI Agency file photo)

Maple Leafs general manager Brian Burke. (ALEX UROSEVIC/QMI Agency file photo)

STEVE SIMMONS, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 11:58 PM ET

TORONTO - Will all the media people — writers, commentators, analysts, hosts — who Brian Burke hasn’t cut off, fought with, tried to bully or intimidate this hockey season, please raise your hands?

The list of Burke’s battles, his latest target being Don Cherry, is ever growing and frankly, it says much more about Burke than it does about the people is squabbling with.

I can count seven national media people of prominence, including Cherry, who have been frozen out, cut off, or had their bosses contacted by Burke over what was said about the Toronto Maple Leafs. The latest battle with Cherry, reported by Joe Warmington in Saturday’s Toronto Sun, is actually nothing new. Just the latest version of an ongoing squabble. A few seasons back, Burke talked to Hockey Night In Canada host Ron MacLean, asking him to get Cherry to tone down his Leafs commentary. Burke asked, Cherry remained doing what Cherry does best.

For a man who claims he doesn’t give a “rat’s ass” what people think, he sure gets in share of verbal scraps. And especially odd that most of this has happened in the past seven months, which have probably been his most successful seven months in charge of the Leafs.

THIS AND THAT

The difference between the fiery Burke and most NHL GMs: Burke’s happiest when he has something to fight about. Last year, when Phil Kessel was the last pick in the all-star draft last year, Burke made all kinds of noise about the all-star process and his player being embarrassed and he shouted loudly for change. This year, the complete opposite. San Jose GM Doug Wilson shrugged off the fact his player, Logan Couture, was last pick. Neither he nor Couture thought anything of it at all, except for the fact Couture got a free vehicle out of the supposed snub ... The NHL remains a contradiction in terms: On Saturday, commissioner Gary Bettman announced the league will have record attendance and record revenue this season. And soon, he will announced that the Collective Bargaining Agreement doesn’t work for teams and the league needs to restructure financially if it is to survive. But as the past lockout has proven over time, a new CBA can’t help the bevy of poor sister franchises the league has in Phoenix, Long Island, Florida and more, that can’t make economic sense under any progressive system ... For the record, fired NHLPA head Ted Saskin was skewered for making a deal that supposedly favoured the owners in 2005. Now the owners hate the deal and players have done just fine — as they always do — under Saskin’s alleged sell out ... The best reason for Alexander Ovechkin to be in Ottawa tis weekend: Because the NHL wants him there. Ovechkin doesn’t deserve to be an all-star this year. But he was chosen and considering how much league face time Ovechkin has gotten over the years in a two-player campaign to sell the game, the time to give something back was now.

HEAR AND THERE

A strange piece of all-star draft analysis. Zdeno Chara, who plays for the Boston Bruins, wouldn’t pick a player from the Vancouver Canucks. And Daniel Alfredsson, who plays for Ottawa, wouldn’t pick a player from the hated Leafs. Which is all fine and dandy, except for this: Isn’t Boston in the same division with Toronto, and aren’t the Leafs a possible first-round opponent of the Bruins? So should the Leafs feel in any way slighted that Chara, paired with Joffrey Lupul, is quite comfortable in the company of Leafs, who clearly don’t frighten the oversized captain ... Tyler Seguin, the Brampton kid who could have been a Leaf if not for the Phil Kessel trade, was excited to be on the same all-star team with Kessel. He said “Kess, I think we’re linemates.” And the rarely colourful Kessell retorted: “That’d be cool. I think the media would like it.” ... A decision the Leafs have to make between now and July. How much is Mikhail Grabovski worth? He and Jonas Gustavsson are the Leafs unrestricted free agents of consequence. The Leafs have to figure out what a 60-point centreman is worth in today’s game and whether this is something they want to commit to long term.

SCENE AND HEARD

Tell me again why Pat Quinn was fired in Edmonton. Are you telling me the Oilers wouldn’t be better by now if Quinn was still in charge? ... This outdoor game craze is out of control. The NHL does it. The AHL does it. College hockey does it. Now the OHL is talking about cashing in. And I can you tell you quite honestly that I’m not paying good money to sit outside, too far away from the ice and freeze in the middle of winter to watch the Erie Otters play the Plymouth Whalers or whoever is involved ... NHL minister of defence Brendan Shanahan can suspend somebody every day and NHL players still won’t comprehend that recklessness, disrespect and stupidity is not the holy trinity of hockey success. Almost every night there’s a questionable play and a disregard for safety. The failure of players to grasp the danger of this is astounding ... A little known fact: Super Bowl coaches Bill Belichick and Tom Coughlin both worked for Bill Parcells with the New York Giants. Belichick, as most people know, ran the defence. Coughlin, for a short time, coached the receivers ... Another little known fact: When Belichick was coach of the Cleveland Browns, he traded for an extra first-round pick. But at the end of his-five year run in Cleveland, he was fired and the team moved to Baltimore. And that draft pick he traded for? It turned out to be Ray Lewis.

AND ANOTHER THING

What you don’t hear enough about: Not only did the Milwaukee Brewers lose Prince Fielder to free agency, but should his drug suspension hold up they lose the MVP, Ryan Braun, for the first 50 games of the season. That’s 71 homers and 231 gone from the Brewers lineup. Try replacing that? ... You want to hear noise about the possibility of a civic workers strike in Toronto? Just wait until you hear the roar should minor hockey playoffs be interrupted because local arenas are closed ... Our Bob Elliott is finding out just how appreciated he is since being elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame. At a dinner in New York last Saturday in which Elliott and other baseball award winners were honoured, the program had full-page of congratulations from Carlos Delgado and Shawn Green, from the Blue Jays, from Bobby Cox and two pages bought by 65 baseball scouts and baseball writers, offering well wishes ... Did you know that Kyle Williams, the goat of San Francisco’s defeat in the NFC championship game, is the son of former Blue Jay Kenny Williams, the current general manager of the Chicago White Sox? ... You want to blame somebody for Billy Cundiff’s missed field goal? Blame the management and coaches on the Baltimore Ravens. They couldn’t try an earlier field goal from 51 yards. Why? Because Cundiff had made one of his previous 10 attempts from more than 50 yards out. And the missed field goal which prevented overtime in the AFC title game, was Cundiff’s third miss on the road in six attempts from less than 40 yards out. It’s not the kicker’s fault he isn’t good enough ...Happy birthday to Scott Milanovich (39), Pat Quinn (69), Dominik Hasek (47), Andre Reed (48), Sean Burke (45), Oprah Winfrey (58), Mike Foligno (53), Doug Risebrough (58) and the much-decorated Olympian, Ole Einar Bjorndalen (38) ... And hey, whatever became of Otto Velez?

ALL-STAR FORMAT

There is nothing wrong with the idea of an NHL all-star draft. It’s the execution of it, and partly the players involved, who render it rather numbing. Imagine if this was done in early 1980s — when you could have Team Gretzky and Team Lafleur or later in the decade with Team Gretzky or Team Lemieux. You’d have to choose who to pick between Mark Messier and Bryan Trottier and Mike Bossy, between Raymond Bourque and Paul Coffey or Al MacInnis and Larry Robinson. Who would get Jari Kurri or Glenn Anderson or Denis Potvin? There is more talent than ever in today’s NHL, just fewer stars, and without Sidney Crosby and a diminished Alex Ovechkin, fewer crossover stars of consequence. The middle picks in a draft going back might have been Michel Goulet and Peter Stastny, Steve Shutt or Dino Ciccarelli. Now that would have been fun.

AUSSIE OPEN EXCITEMENT

I used to think the Australian Open was the poor sister of the four major tournaments in tennis. Historically, it has been to Wimbledon and the U.S. Open what the PGA Championship in golf is to the Masters. Just not this year. Men’s tennis — with Novak Djokovic dominating, with the remarkable rivalry of Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal still stirring if not one-sided, with Andy Murray forever fighting to get the big win — is as dramatic, emotional and entertaining as anything we see in sport today. The semi-finals of the Aussie Open were worth waking up for in the middle of the night. The final three majors of the year, which normally surpass the Aussie, will have difficulty matching this kind of drama.

THE TIM THOMAS STORY

Tim Thomas has blown the great Tim Thomas story forever. And for that, he has no one to blame but himself. No longer can we just think of him as being the late-drafted, afterthought, lightly-regarded, scrappy, come from nowhere, everyman goaltending star. The story may still be true. But Thomas altered the illusion with his selfish, me-first, unneeded and unnecessary political controversy about his refusal to attend the celebration of the Boston Bruins at The White House. He is as entitled, as we all are, to our political opinions. He’s also entitled to be wrong. But he wasn’t personally invited to The White House. The Stanley Cup champion Bruins were. This is not, as some people have made it, comparable to the politics of Muhammad Ali. This was a stance of little relevance and Thomas’ statement to explain his position had no mention of his team or his teammates, brushing them aside. If, as reports indicate, he was a singular figure in the Bruins’ dressing room before, in the conforming world that is hockey, he has made himself more singular now.


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