June 6, 2012
Gossip swirls around work, personal life of Leafs GMBurke's not quitting or getting fired
By STEVE SIMMONS, QMI Agency
For the better part of the past two months, rumours of Brian Burke's demise with the Toronto Maple Leafs have swirled throughout the hockey community.
Depending on who has been telling the story -- or where it has been whispered -- Burke is said to either be resigning his post with the Leafs shortly or being fired as general manager in the very near future.
Those rumours abound. And just about everybody inside the game has been exposed to them in one way or the other, and many inside the game who should know better have spread them without any real knowledge of the situation.
And there is one simple problem with all the stories going around and around: They're not true.
Burke isn't stepping down as president and general manager of the Leafs.
He isn't taking a leave of absence from his post.
And he isn't about to be fired, much as a case could be made for doing so.
The basis of the story being spread is that problems within Burke's personal life have reached a point of embarrassment for the Leafs and that they no longer want him fronting their operation. That apparent story has appeared on at least one website, been broadcast in some places and has been part of regular conversation in the ultra-gossipy hockey world throughout the playoffs.
This much we know, even though it isn't our business. Burke is apparently having marital problems. That doesn't in any way make him unique. Half my neighbourhood is having marital issues of one kind or another. It also isn't our business what's happening in his home. It only becomes our business if it affects how he performs on the job.
Many within the Maple Leafs hockey hierarchy have been asked about Burke's status over the past few months and they claim to know nothing of it. There was a story going around that Burke had already taken a leave of absence. He didn't. There was a story going around that he was about to be fired. It hasn't happened -- and isn't about to happen.
Like so many rumours, that one was particularly ludicrous.
The Maple Leafs are about to go through an ownership change. When the sale of Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment Ltd. becomes official, the new mega-owners from Rogers and Bell will be able to get their hands on the hockey franchise and the other toys involved. Until then, nothing would happen. And even once the ownership changes, nothing regarding Burke is expected to happen.
No changes of this magnitude would be possible prior to the ownership deal going through. And no change is likely to happen once it goes through.
So what has happened here? The worst of the modern world of journalism and the blogosphere is at play here. A story gets whispered about and talked about so often that it becomes truth simply by being spread regularly -- and in this case by people who should know better. From word of mouth it makes its way to Twitter or a blog or somewhere where the principles of journalism are not exhibited. The regular rules of attribution and sourcing don't exist in non-traditional media outlets such as blogs.
The number of those who have heard the stories and believe Burke will be pushed out is many. And when a relatively conservative TSN became the first mainstream media outlet to address the issue Tuesday night, it seemed the appropriate time to bring context to some of the misinformation that is out there.
My initial inclination was to let this pass, but the more I've been asked about it by prominent hockey people, the more there seemed a need to bring some calm to rumours that have no validity.
Eventually, questions need to be asked. Burke refused comment on his future Tuesday night.
In an unrelated matter, there has been speculation in the past that Burke would assume the presidency role of the Leafs in time and appoint his chief lieutenant Dave Nonis as general manager. But that's not what the swirling rumours have been about.
The Nonis appointment may eventually happen.
As for Burke's personal life, it's none of our business.
And inside the hockey world, with way too many taking glee for his apparent misfortune -- tough times personally and professionally -- it's time to put these rumours to rest.