Reflections On Brian Burke’s Farewell


Wild weekend. Incredible weekend of NFL football wouldn’t you say?

Bronco’s game was a real treat to watch.

The Seahawks game today was a roller coaster for us here in the Pacific Northwest.

Roberto Luongo got traded to the Maple Leafs.

Isn’t that what John Shannon predicted would happen once the lockout ended?

Just kidding……

There was a little bit of a press conference Saturday morning while little TSM was on the ice burying 2 goals and an assist that I thought I should take some time to recap. The fine folks at The Leaf Nation have a nice little recap of the Burke 1-liners here. There’s been a ton written about it already so here are just a few hat tips:

Burke was exactly as he has been from the moment he arrived in Toronto. Blunt and upfront.

The one comment that got sent my way the most was his shot at Toronto Sun writer Steve Simmons. Simmons asked Burke a question to which Burke replied:

“The best part about today, Steve, is I probably never have to talk to you again”.

For those of you with short memories, Simmons went after Burke for not being in Toronto on the opening day of free agency a few years back. Burke was over-seas visiting the Canadian troops.

The result was a bit of a frosty relationship between the outlet and Burke. It wasn’t the only rough spot for the two parties, but it wasn’t the finest moment either.

That was Burke however. You may recall on one of the earlier Press Box’s I did, I read Burke a quote from a then MSM to which Burke replied, “who wrote that?”Howard Berger” I replied to which Burke responded “Next question”.

That is Burke.

The Sun is perhaps the only outlet in town that seems to have taken the don’t let the door hit you on the way out approach.

“That Burke let everyone see just how much the award-winning scribe got under his thin skin shows just how right Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment got the decision to turf him.

After his goodbye performance Saturday they would be wise to fire him again — this time from his “special adviser” role they generously agreed to swallow.”

That from Sun writer Joe Warmington.

Simmons called it the way he saw it too:

“He was larger than life obnoxious, just as he said. That’s who and what Brian Burke is. You ask him a question and he’ll give you a straight answer. He can be charming and commanding, offensive and rude. He will give you a straight answer but if he doesn’t like the question, you will get no answer at all.”

He also wrote what I consider a pretty accurate account of what’s going on, or what went on:

“But that wasn’t why he was fired. He knows that. And he’s not confortable going public with the information — and neither is the new ownership — because it’s hard to explain why someone didn’t like you. It wasn’t just that he swore. It wasn’t just that he enjoyed the occasional beverage. It wasn’t just that public complaints about him have been more and more apparent in recent months. It wasn’t any one of those things: It was all of them. And more.

The record. The behaviour. The relationship with the media — his feuds have been many. The public image. Burke liked to call the Leafs the Vatican of pro hockey. Only ownership didn’t want him to be Pope anymore. They wanted to quiet the storms and take a new stride under new management. The same people, basically, minus Burke.”

Over at the Star, Rosie wasn’t buying what MLSE has been selling us:

“If Burke is putting his faith in Anselmi — and Tanenbaum and Lastman — then the message hasn’t been absorbed. His supporters couldn’t save his hide at the board level where BCE Inc. and Rogers Communications now so clearly hold the hammer, sharing 75 per cent ownership of Maple Leaf Sports & Entertainment. There’s thus no evidence they can salvage something of self-respect and relevance for Burke in the aftermath of the bloodletting.

If the objective is to manoeuvre Burke, a proud man, into quitting instead — presumably forfeiting the year and a half salary remaining on his contract — then it’s a nasty piece of business, assuming Anselmi, Tanenbaum and Lastman even had the authority to unilaterally agree on Burke’s job definition.

Instead, it sounds very much like there’s been some blow-back upstairs. At the very least, Burke has been made to look foolish”

Damien Cox got the first interview with Burke. I highlighted what I thought was the most telling part:

“He said he was unaware of any noteworthy clash with the new ownership alliance of Rogers and Bell. He did say that Tanenbaum asked him last season to “tone it down” in terms of his public utterances.

“I said, ‘Larry, I can’t do that. I am who I am. But I can back away a bit,’ ” said Burke. “And that’s what I’ve done the last six months.”

Bruce Arthur did a great job covering the most interesting part of what Burke had to say in my opinion:

“So Burke largely held his tongue, which during his Maple Leafs tenure wasn’t usually a problem. He did mention he wished he had been told before he flew to the world junior championship in Ufa, Russia, where he caught the cold. He said, unprompted, that the title of senior advisor the Maple Leaf Sports & Entertainment board gave him had nothing to do with hockey operations, which “was not my understanding.” He answered a question about why it didn’t work out by saying he wouldn’t talk about the mess he inherited, and in so doing brought up the mess he inherited. He said he was given a reason for the timing of his firing, and later said, “I did not get a satisfactory explanation for that.”

I will admit I was surprised to see that Simmons didn’t have his usual Sunday column today. I was shocked that Larry Brooks wasn’t dancing on Burke’s grave today too.

I am most interested to see what, if anything gets written in the coming days. In the absence of the official word, there will be innuendo and rumor, unless of course Shannon is right and Luongo……..

Happy Monday


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