March 7, 2012
Burke had both Cherry and MacLean in his sightsLeafs GM wanted duo muzzled
By JOE WARMINGTON, QMI Agency
TORONTO - It was as if somebody kicked his dog Blue.
Turns out part of what set Don Cherry off Saturday night to such emotion was that his old friend and Coach’s Corner partner Ron MacLean had been lumped in with him. The two became one in complaints from Maple Leafs GM Brian Burke to the CBC.
“I didn’t like it,” said Cherry of his 26-year Coach’s Corner partner being involved in Burke “going behind our backs to our bosses” to tell the CBC if they want the Maple Leafs as part of the new contract they “should get rid of Cherry and MacLean.”
Say it ain’t so.
For his part MacLean confirmed that Burke did indeed go to their superiors.
“I don’t think it was as much to get us fired as much as he wanted to see us muzzled, which is ridiculous,” said MacLean.
To his credit, MacLean said, Burke telephoned him before he actually met with CBC Executive Director of Sports Properties Jeff Orridge, who like Burke is a Harvard educated lawyer, several days after the NHL all-star game weekend.
“He said I am feeling kind of lousy doing it this way without talking to you first,” MacLean said of the Burke call.
MacLean was offered a chance to meet with Burke before the meeting but declined — explaining to the Leafs president their job is not to present “all rainbows” in their broadcast.
“Brian feels that I egg Grapes on but in his call he was cordial,” MacLean said.
Cherry and Stephen Brunt were on Sportsnet 590 The Fan Tuesday with Bob McCown saying Burke also met with the league with similar concerns.
Said Brunt: “At the Board of Governors I guess what was implied was if you guys want to get this contract, if want to renew Hockey Night in Canada when it comes next year, you better get rid of this guy.”
Said Cherry: “That’s what I heard, too” with word being presented to the governor’s “don’t forget we are going to be guys in charge here and this guy’s a loose cannon.”
Burke in an e-mail did not respond to questions about this. In an earlier e-mail Burke told me he liked both MacLean and Cherry but had complained about their weekly “vicious” attacks on his coach and team “quietly and professionally” and that “they leaked it.”
The CBC has also not commented on this issue.
Meanwhile MacLean said Orridge did not divulge the discussions of the meetings which happened two days after the Burke phone call.
“I am not losing any sleep over it,” said Ron. “I understand Brian is under a lot pressure and he treats each day like it’s a hockey game. A general manager of such a major professional sports franchise should be able to handle it but it’s the way he is. I like him a lot and he is a good guest.”
He said he harbours no resentment over Burke going behind he and Don’s back to their boss.
“I forgive Brian,” said MacLean. “It’s over as far as I am concerned.”
But for Cherry, who told McCown and Brunt “it wasn’t a very Irish thing for Burke to do” when it comes to forgiveness, there can be a different time frame.
“Don gets mad at me, too, sometimes but he always comes around,” he said. “Actually he and Brian are similar like that.”
And MacLean made the point that while Burke is under scrutiny “don’t forget Don is under enormous pressure to deliver to his audience too.”
He said it didn’t surprise him that Cherry would take offence to somebody complaining about him and be the enforcer for his old buddy and teammate.
“He has had my back before when necessary and I have done the same for him,” he said.
During the playoffs on the road they often end up “buying a 12-pack” and watching the late game in the hotel room.
“I will drink seven and he will drink five,” Cherry said. “We are like Frick and Frack. Sometimes, mostly in the playoffs, we have a foxhole mentality.”
It would, he said, be difficult to drive a wedge between them.
“We are close friends.”
Brian Burke found that out first hand this week.