Sports journalists routinely check out rumours with trusted sources and make decisions about whether or not there is enough substance for them to become published stories.
So it went in the last month when rumours started that Brian Burke was about to be fired or asked to resign or take a sabbatical from his job as general manager of the Toronto Maple Leafs because of issues in his personal life. Discussions with MLSE executives showed there was no substance to these rumours but they did not go away.
By last weekend, even seasoned hockey executives were wondering about the rumours. The fact MLSE will formally change hands later this summer when the sale to BCE Inc., and Rogers Communications Inc., closes, added to the intrigue.
Even though people in position to know dismissed the talk about Burke, once credible people in the NHL started asking questions it was necessary to revisit the matter and approach Burke.
Thus a short, uncomfortable conversation with Burke became necessary on Sunday. The question of a leave or resigning was put to him and he denied it.
"This is a serious question?" Burke said. "No, it's never been discussed."
Burke also said he is not considering any sort of hiatus from his job. "The answer is no," he said.
As for the gossip about his private life, Burke said he was aware of it and said there "was nothing to it." He declined further comment. At that point, after internal discussions at The Globe and Mail, it was decided there was no story.
However, when TSN succumbed to the temptation to report on the unsubstantiated gossip, the issue was placed in front of a national audience. The rumours about Burke's private life were not mentioned in dismissing the gossip, which was disingenuous because that was what fuelled the speculation about his job.
Hence the decision to publish Burke's statement about the non-news.
MLSE chairman Larry Tanenbaum is travelling this week and was not available for comment. But an MLSE source said Wednesday, "This is an example of the media going crazy. Brian Burke is not about to be fired. He is fully engaged."