After some shrewd negotiating with the Toronto Maple Leafs organization, I came across the absurd opportunity of following Leafs’ President and General Manager Brian Burke for one whole day.
This uncensored and unrated look at the job Mr. Burke has is only a glimpse into the life of the man who has been called upon to save the beloved Buds.
Here now, is a day in the life of Brian Burke.
8:17AM: Brian, having allowed himself to sleep in due to the fact he has little to accomplish today, pulls into the parking lot of the practice facility. Outside the doors stand Ryan Getzlaf and Teemu Selanne, laughing to themselves and gleaming with pride as they look at the morning paper’s front page, “Ducks take 3-1 lead over Senators, Cup win almost certain now.” Burke smiles as he walks up to the two men and shakes their hand. “Great morning isn’t it Burkey?” Getzlaf proclaims. Burke nods in approval as he kicks a rock from inside his flip-flop, and adjusts his sunglasses.
A Ford F150 pulls up, music blaring, windows rolled down, its defense pair Chris Pronger and Scott Neidermeyer, with brother Rob in the back. They walk towards Brian as they chuckle about last evenings team BBQ at Pronger’s house, where Scott used a vase to try and show Rob how to properly lift the Stanley Cup but dropped it. They join Burke and the other two players at the front door, just as a member of the Duck’s staff stuck his out the door and wondered where Burke was planning on starting the parade route next week. Brian Burke smiles, shrugs his shoulders and turns back to the players.
6:46AM: Burke awakes to his blackberry alarm blaring AC/DC’s ‘Highway to Hell’, “Damn”, he mumbles, “just a dream again.” It’s Monday, and Burke slowly rolls out of bed and rests his feet on the warm carpet floor. The Toronto Maple Leafs President and GM switches off his alarm and see’s he has 22 text messages awaiting him. He rubs his eyes and turns on the television, taking his time, knowing there is a long, busy day ahead of him.
7:32AM: Burke walks down the hall of the Leafs hotel in Ottawa on his way to the team breakfast provided downstairs. Top button of his shirt undone, tie loose and hanging from his collar, his eyes focused on the Blackberry. As he begins to read his overflowing inbox of text messages and emails his phone begins to ring, it’s MLSE President and CEO Richard Peddie.
“Brian, it’s Richard, I have an idea for the summer. Our jersey sales are down this year and I’ve been thinking we need to make a trade for a captain, because fans will flock to the stores to buy a jersey with a ‘C’ on it. We should trade our first round pick and Luke Schenn to the New York Rangers for Markus Naslund, make him captain and let him finish his career here. Think of the money we’ll make off his jersey!”
Burke quickly ends the call, and wishes that little man would stop calling him. Somewhere John Ferguson Jr. proclaims “I told you!”
7:37AM: Burke walks into the Leafs private conference room where a table awaits full of delicious food for breakfast. In the far corner of the room stand Mikhail Grabovski and Nikolia Kuleman laughing with former GM Cliff Fletcher. Cliff rolls up his shirt sleeve to reveal the “Silver Fox” tattoo he got while out on the town with the two players the night before.
At the same time Dr. Forman, Leafs team doctor, meets Burke at the entrance to inform him that Mike Van Ryn had received another concussion late in the night when a game of checkers with fellow defender Jeff Finger got violent. Burke makes a mental note to get in touch with St. Louis Blues staff to discuss a trade of Van Ryn to the Blues in exchange for Carlo Colliacovo back to the Leafs. He got hurt far less than Van Ryn.
The Leafs GM then takes his place at the table with his normal meal buddies; Dave Nonis (Senior Vice-President of Hockey Operations), Ron Wilson (Coach), and rookie defenseman Luke Schenn. Schenn, Burke’s roommate on the road (to keep him from being corrupted by any of the non-physical, non-defensive minded European rookies on the team), had gotten up earlier when his brother, Brayden Schenn, called to ask what jersey numbers were free on the Leafs’ roster.
The four men chuckle about the prank pulled on Luke last week when Burke had a ‘C’ sewed on all of Schenn’s clothing, simply getting him ready for the future.
8:01AM: Injured goalie Vesa Toskala who is out for the season, but decided to come on the trip before his surgery, calls over to coach Ron Wilson to throw him a muffin. Wilson tosses one in his direction, but Vesa goes down too early and the muffin beats him high glove side. Burke makes a mental note to instruct the surgeons to do some work on his glove hand, along with his hip and groin.
Just then Martin Gerber walks in sporting an Ottawa Senators tracksuit, not by choice but because Burke instructed him to just wear his old suit, he wouldn’t be in Toronto long enough to need one from the Leafs. The Leafs’ brass also plan on making Gerber wear his Sens’ pads and helmet for the game that night, to confuse the Ottawa players. Unfortunately defender Chris Phillips is suiting up for the Senators, and he excels at scoring on goaltenders in Sens’ equipment. Burke forgets Phillip’s own goal on Ray Emery in the 2007 playoffs helped the GM beat the Sens and win his first cup.
8:17AM: Burke and Wilson begin to discuss new ways to work around questions concerning the Leafs tanking the season and going for a high draft pick. They stick to their original plan of weekly calling out a player, criticizing his play, in hopes that the media will believe they are actually upset with these guys.
8:45AM: After a hearty meal Burke heads out to the hall while in a phone conversation when Matt Stajan approaches him. Burke holds up his hand and quickly says, “Sorry kid, no autographs.”
11:06AM: Burke takes a seat in the 15th row of Scotiabank Place to watch the morning skate of his team. This, just after instructing Marlies’ call-up Ben Ondrus to fight as many players as possible during the skate, this way Burke could fully judge the toughness of his team. After Ondrus is knocked out clean by Assistant coach Keith Acton, Burke makes a mental note to suit up Acton in a future game.
11:45AM: Goaltending coach Corey Hirsch comes to Burke complaining of the old man who occasionally hangs around the ice dressed as a goalie. Burke informs him that this is in fact Curtis Joseph, who they should be nice too because they need him to babysit Stajan on weekends.
11:58AM: Burke and Schenn sit down for some lunch at a nearby café. While enjoying his turkey sandwich the rookie drips some mustard down his shirt, Burke reacts fast. He quickly licks a napkin and reaches over the table to clean up the mess. When the mustard doesn’t come out, he demands that someone in the café get the stud defender a new shirt. A young waiter walks over and politely asks Burke to calm down, as he’s disturbing the others enjoying their meal. He tells the waiter to walk away slowly or he’ll never work another day in his life. He then gives Schenn the shirt off his back.
12:06PM: Burke buys a new white shirt for himself, then gets a matching shirt for Luke, but with a ‘C’ sewed on. They laugh together, as Burke pauses to think of all the fun they’re going to have in the future.
12:36PM: The Leafs’ GM joins FAN590’s Darren Millard and Nick Kypreos on their daily radio show to discuss the latest in Leaf Nation. After giving his standard one word answers, Burke tries to tell Kypreos that they are not actually friends, but Nick won’t listen and insists they go out for a beer when Burke returns to Toronto. After Burke hangs up Kypreos says excitedly, “He’ll call me.”
No he won’t.
1:15PM: Burke’s Blackberry buzzes, it’s Canucks’ forward and Swedish twin, Henrik Sedin returning a call. He answers and they have some standard small talk and catch up before Burke gets down to business and says:
“So here’s the plan for the summer, you and your brother are coming to Toronto. We’ll pay you $4 million each, and we’ll throw in Mats’ mansion and some excellent bunk beds for the both of you. The colour can be your choice, how does all that sound?”
Henrik hesitates, then replies, “That sounds pretty good, but we’ve gotten a better offer. Your buddy, Kevin Lowe, in Edmonton offered us $9 million per season, coupons to ride the roller coaster at West Edmonton Mall, and he’ll give us matching racecar beds.”
As the steam rises from the GM’s forehead, Henrik begins to say something, but is cut off abruptly.
Burke angrily ends the call and curses Kevin Lowe’s existence. He checks the Sedin’s off of his “to buy this summer” list, and hopes Rick Nash returns his call soon.
2:24PM: Burke finds Wilson having a conversation with Schenn and fellow blue-liner Ian White and comes over when he sees the two players high-five with glee. Wilson informs Burke that they will be forced to play the two defensemen for the entire game against Ottawa, as the rest of the Leafs defense is injured.
2:26PM: Burke tries on a pair of skates, but they don’t fit.
3:07PM: With the players headed up for their afternoon nap Burke receives a phone call from Raptors’ President and GM Bryan Colangelo. He wants to know if Burke would take over his job at the end of next year once Chris Bosh has left for nothing, along with the Raptors chance at being good anytime soon. Burke respectively declined, and then removes Colangelo’s number from his phone.
3:55PM: Burke bumps into Ottawa GM Brian Murray. They shake hands, exchange some GM gossip and as they turn to leave Burke says, “Well, enjoy your final year as GM of the Sens.” Murray laughs at the joke. Burke laughs too, but at the fact it wasn’t a joke.
4:15PM: Burke’s BFF, Brad May, joins him for a pre-game cigar and shot of Jack Daniels.
4:55PM: Burke gets the news that Montreal Canadiens have fired their coach, Guy Carbonneau. The Leafs GM and coach question why Bob Gainey would leave him as coach while the Habs were struggling mightily, and then fire him the day after their most impressive win in weeks. Burke wonders, if the Habs blow it up, if there is anyone on the Canadiens he would like to see in blue and white next year.
7:11PM: Burke, high up in a box, uses his handy dandy binoculars to scope out Ian White’s choice of facial hair, and approves once he sees the moustache flowing in the breeze, complemented nicely by the chinstrap halfway down the jaw line.
7:12PM: Orders the usual; cotton candy.
7:44PM: Burke is seen cheering as Ian White scores on the ice. What is not known by the onlookers is that Burke has just won a free coffee from his latest Roll-Up-The-Rim cup and didn’t actually notice the goal on the ice.
10:42PM: Burke congratulates the team on a hard fought game in the visitor’s dressing room.
10:43PM: Wilson walks by Burke; the two inconspicuously look around and give a subtle fist bump. “One more loss, one step closer to the other Schenn brother” Burke says. Wilson smirks and walks towards the media hoard, ready to deal with more questions concerning yet another loss.
10:50PM: After talking with a few of the players Burke heads out of the change room and down the hall, things around him suddenly seeming a little brighter.
“Turn off those damn camera lights you idiots, you trying to blind me?” Burke shouts.
Brian Burke, Toronto Maple Leafs President and General Manager, in charge of a team whose fans are more than just hockey-crazed, they’re, well, insane. The man has a got a tough job ahead of him to change this dysfunctional team into a champion, but he’s the only man who can do the job right.
A day in the life of Brian Burke.
(As a die hard Leaf fan, and true believer that Brian Burke will lead the Leafs back to Cup contention, it’s necessary sometimes to just sit back and laugh at the situation right now. Go Leafs Go.)