Brian Burke sat down Friday with the Toronto Star to share his feelings after his firing 48 hours earlier. He was as shocked as many hockey observers were.
“I was floored, and I still am stunned. I’ve never been fired before,” he said about Wednesday’s announcement. “How am I doing? I’m doing okay."
Burke isn't playing the sad sack. The article notes he was walking about with no sunglasses or hat and was dressed in a Providence College sweatshirt -- his alma mater.
He also says he isn't going anywhere, except maybe to the New England Patriots playoff game against Houston this weekend. But he's planning to stay in Toronto -- and get to work as a senior adviser.
“I think I can help,” he said. “I’ve been at this for a while. I have my name on the Stanley Cup. I’ll do whatever I can.”
But as interesting as his firing were the days after, as Deadspin notes from reading the interview, and enjoy the Canadian spellings:
This was his second visit to his favourite Starbucks of the morning — he was up at 4:30 a.m. to work out, then out for his first coffee at 5:30 a.m. — and came after a neighbour had pointed out to him that the back window of one of his cars had been smashed in.
“I don’t know if it was a disgruntled fan or not,” he said in his first interview since being dismissed. “But they didn’t steal anything.”
If the double dose of coffee wasn't enough of a treat, Burke took in a matinee showing of "Jack Reacher." Said Burke: "First time in my life I’ve ever been to a midweek matinee. First time I’ve ever gone to a movie alone."
Burke will talk more Saturday, when he plans a news conference.
How about the folks over at Mariucci Arena, who had to contend with the "help" detailed in this video?
Before heading back to organized workouts, former Gophers Paul Martin of the Pittsburgh Penguins and Keith Ballard of the Vancouver Canucks showed off how they had been spending some of their time in the Twin Cities during the lockout. The fun video, first shown during the Gophers-Notre Dame game, was posted a day later on YouTube.
If you think that was a stretch, how about NBC hockey announcer Mike Emrick? According to the New York Times, Emrick found himself calling a girls 12-and-under game in Michigan -- at the suggestion of NBC News anchor Brian Williams.
Emrick found some help in his preparation from Minneapolis native, former North Star and 1980 Olympian Mark Johnson, now coach of the University of Wisconsin women's team who also coached the 2010 U.S. women's Olympic team. So what did Johnson tell Emrick? According to the Times:
What should he look for? Emrick asked. “A lot of smiles through wire,” Johnson told him. Also, he said, “Two or three on each team will be dominant; for that handful, the light has gone on, because they have the confidence and the skills.”
Emrick also found one main difference from calling a women's game vs. a men's: Sometimes, the ponytails obscure the players' numbers. His call was featured Thursday night on Williams' "Rock Center" show. Here's the segment:
Why was Brian Burke, who grew up in Edina and played high school hockey there, fired as Toronto Maple Leafs general manager? No one is quite sure.
It might have been his refusal to trade for Vancouver goalie Roberto Luongo. It might have been his gruff, very old-school manner. It might have been the media partnership that now owns the team. And it might have been all the above.
Also cited in the reports of Burke's demise was his trade for former Gopher Phil Kessel. Admittedly, Kessel is a scorer the Leafs needed, but he came over at a price that set up Boston for its Stanley Cup and perhaps more. It is cited as the biggest mistake in Burke's tenure, even though Burke had said he would make that trade again.
But as Burke is being criticized for giving up too much for Kessel, the Leafs' pursuit of Luongo allegedly would cost them the services for Minnetonka's Jake Gardiner as well as young forward Nazem Kadri. Those young pieces for the aging, streaky Luongo drew scorn from Toronto fans and was something Burke was downplaying for months back when there was an NHL season.
Burke was sent packing as general manager but will stay on in this shortened season as a senior adviser, and his role as ultimate hockey decisionmaker for English Canada's landmark franchise ended with a wake Wednesday night. But the Leafs, owned by a teachers pension funds before media rivals Rogers Communications and Bell Canada took over, are now seen more like the Dallas Cowboys or Chicago Cubs: A team with a storied history that isn't doing much in the here and now, despite a sports-crazy, big-money, high-stakes atmosphere.
Even so, Burke knew the writing was on the wall even as he took the top job in the self-styled Heart of Hockey. In explaining the trade for Kessel, Burke said this: "“Because if I don’t get this team in the playoffs in three years they’ll be all over me.”
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