Monday evening, Bob McCown, the longtime host of Sportsnet Prime Time Sports, sat down with arguably the three most important men in Toronto sports: Brian Burke, president and general manager of the Toronto Maple Leafs, Bryan Colangelo, president and general manager of the Toronto Raptors and Paul Beeston, President and CEO of the Toronto Blue Jays.
The first question McCown broached to all three on the panel was “Which of the three of you has the toughest job.”
Beeston responded by saying “no question, it’s not me." He followed that by suggesting that all three of them have a tough job to do.
Bryan Colangelo had the quote of the night when he said, “I am a distant third, so just call me Chris Bosh.”...Wow!
Colangelo went on to acknowledge that Brian Burke probably had the toughest job, while Burke concurred with Colangelo’s thoughts.
All three lamented that the job they do was tough and that, for the most part, they would not change where they are for the world.
McCown raised the point that Burke’s philosophy has historically been that most young players are best served by spending some time in the minors, to which Burke said:
“Yes...my track record is that I like guys to spend time in the American (Hockey) League. It humbles them; I think it makes them grateful for what they get after they get it. I think it’s a real important learning curve for them to go from junior or college hockey into professional hockey and I think it’s time well spent."
To Burke’s point, you need only to look at his track record to see that he has always been a fan of allowing players the proper amount of time to evolve into legitimate NHL hockey players, with very few exceptions.
Burke’s philosophy also sheds some light on why he feels the Toronto Marlies are so crucial to the big club's fortunes, both now and for the future.
Burke said from day one of arriving here in Toronto that he was going to change the culture by creating a system which encompassed a rigorous form of competition, something that Burke seems to have already accomplished.
When asked about the challenges of operating a franchise out of Canada and the clouded perception that often goes with being in Canada, Burke responded by stating that he had little trouble attracting players to come to Toronto—a city which many feel is the centre of the hockey universe.
“I think people around the National Hockey League and world wide respect Toronto as a great hockey city and a great place to live—there’s no issues that way.”
True, but given the struggles the Maple Leafs have had over the past six or seven seasons, it remains to be seen if Burke can land a superstar free agent.
There have been plenty of reports out there that suggest this offseason's biggest unrestricted free agent (Brad Richards) would not want to come to Toronto, with part of his reasoning being that Toronto is simply too tough a market in which to play within.
Is Toronto a great city? Absolutely! But are NHL players lining up to join the Blue and White? Hardly.
Some quick hits from McCown’s interview:
Burke’s most trusted confidant? On staff—Dave Nonis. Off staff? Lou Lamoriello or Glen Sather.
While I respect Burke’s allegiances, let’s just hope he doesn’t call Sather too often for trade advice!
Does Brian Burke talk business with his wife?
“I do it all the time”, said Burke.
They always say that behind every good man is a great woman. Burke says he trusts her opinion and that, given her broadcasting background, she understands “this business” of hockey.
What is the thing you would do on a date night?
“Dinner and a movie is nice”, said Burke.
Tough loss—do you take it home?
Burke: “Yep. I don’t like losing. Show me anyone that likes losing and they won’t be successful. I don’t like it, I don’t take it lightly, I take it home.”
Judging by the camera shots of Burke after a tough loss or a bad call that doesn’t go his teams way, you know he cares deeply about his players, management and coaching staff.
It’s no surprise that he takes a bad loss home with him; in fact, I think everyone at Burke’s level does.
Which sport is most likely to establish a foothold outside of North America?
“It’s not us.” said Burke. “For us, the single biggest problem is the buildings in Europe don’t generate NHL economics.” Burke went on to say, “There’s lot’s of problems, I can’t see it happening in the near future at all.”
Burke also lamented that logistics would be a huge issue, as well as the predatory effect the NHL in Europe would have on their existing leagues.
There have been a lot of rumors circulating that the success of the KHL may lead the NHL to have interest in bringing their league to Russia. Logistics, economic factors and travel issues continue to hurt the NHL’s chances of coming to Russia or anywhere else in Europe.
Does your sport need more instant replay?
Burke: “No, It’s fine.” Burke went on to say, “You’ve gotta really be careful where you stop and start taking that out of the hands of the officials."
I think Burke is right here. The NHL has done a great job of using instant replay where applicable while not putting the games in a state of constant interruption. Flow is an important part of any hockey game and I would hate to see it ruined by overzealous instant replays.
It was a great interview, shedding some light on some of Burke’s more personal thoughts and, as always, some useful hockey insight.
Until next time,
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