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The Usual Suspects

HNIC host presses Brian Burke on coach Ron Wilson Add to ...

"Stop the presses, I want to get off." Embattled Toronto Maple Leaf president/ GM Brian Burke has embraced omerta when it comes to Hockey Night In Canada and The FAN 590 radio. Besieged by calls for his coach's head and his own shaggy mane, Burke told HNIC's Ron MacLean he has decided to keep his own counsel.

"I asked if I could give the exact quote he gave me for his decision to opt out," MacLean wrote on his CBC.ca blog. "He said no. After giving him my views on the importance of the dialogue, Brian said 'Explain it, then. I have no obligation here. Write and say whatever you want.'... He made it clear he did not like what has been said on our show. I explained a few bits about the balance we've brought, and explained the value of his appearance to our show and his fans. Brian quipped, 'Methinks, the lady doth protest too much'." (Did he just call RonMac a lady?)

If anyone knows about protest these days it's Burke. We have learned that the Leafs GM has extended the Trappist routine to appearing on the FAN 590 after protesting to station suits about his treatment as recently as this week. Not sure what part of being referred to as "Bubbles" (of Trailer Park Boys fame) or the Hindenburg he didn't like. It will be interesting to see how the FAN approaches Burke with the Rogers mothership allegedly seeking to dock with Maple Leafs Sports and Entertainment.

NO YUKS PLEASE

Maybe the HHIC guys should just steer clear of the Buddy Hackett impersonations. Courtesy of the otherwise circumspect Elliotte Friedman's Twitter on Saturday: "Things I thought I'd never hear over the loudspeaker in a hospital: "Did someone order Chinese food? In the yellow zone?" Followed by "We're all howling at food order". Explains Friedman: "When posting the tweet, I never even thought of the correlation between 'yellow' and 'Chinese.' There is absolutely no way I meant it as a slur."

HORSESHOES AND HAND GRENADES

It's said journalism is simply history written in a hurry. If that's the case, you might want to keep an eraser on the pencil of posterity. Last week, the speed writers of history had Rogers Communications bidding $1.3 billion for the MLSE share owned by the Ontario Teachers Pension Fund (when no such bid has been made).

The purported Rogers' bid for Ontario Teachers share of MLSE sent a seismic shock through the hockey, journalism and broadcasting communities. It simultaneously unleashed a torrent of stories on the future of televised sport and a gusher of misspent optimism in Leaf Nation that new owners might solve the 43-year of riddle of why Toronto can't win a Stanley Cup.

While the Toronto Star's "Hey Martha" scoop proved suspect, we did learn plenty about MLSE after the Star essayed its story. Such as, Larry Tannenbaum has first right of refusal on the sale of the Ontario Teachers shares. That Teachers is looking for a cool $1.5 billion if anyone has that amount burning a whole in their jeans. And... oh, Teachers is really in no hurry to sell.

So if you're not a stickler for accuracy, last week's ricochet effect was a productive exercise. Otherwise, as Emily Litella used to say on SNL when told her facts weren't in order, "Never mind."

VALUE EQUATION

The annual Forbes evaluation of NHL franchise values is reminiscent of the swallows returning to Capistrano each spring. The swallows in this case being the NHL's vehement denials of Forbes' figures and the media's incredulous "how can the Nashville Predators be worth $148-million?" But the exercise-- produced by Forbes from an analysis of revenues, leases and TV contracts-- is a useful grid upon which to rate the franchise values. Toronto at $505-million and Phoenix at $134-million are the bookends.

Forbes usefully points out that Gary Bettman's salary cap has narrowed payroll gaps among teams, it has created a two-tiered league in terms of revenues with rich teams getting fabulously rich while lesser teams are left behind. Less usefully for purposes of its integrity, Forbes created a list of the ten best GMs for the buck.

The list includes Don Waddell, who is no longer GM of the chronically inept Atlanta Thrashers, and Garth Snow, the former goalie now misdirecting the fortunes of the laughable New York Islanders. And some guy in Toronto named Brian Burke, who apparently has created a juggernaut on a budget.

FUTBOL FOLLIES

Why would FIFA's money trough avoid staging the World Cup in an American time zone with the attendant jillions of dollars promised by U.S. salesmen Bill Clinton and Morgan (Don't I Look Like Nelson Mandela) Freeman? To say nothing of how it might affect the price for Canadian rights next time out for the 2018 and 2022 rights.

But then we received this reassuring noise from ESPN Executive vice president John Skipper: "The World Cup is an ascendant TV property in the U.S. that will become sequentially more valuable, even if it were held in Mars or Pluto." While fans might be begging for some Mars' cooling climate in Qatar's summer heat in '22, it's hard to see American or Canadian soccer fans warming to events staged eight hours (Russia) and ten hours (Qatar) earlier.

But if the Worldwide Leader says it to be so in the U.S. then it must be so.

 

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