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Usual Suspects

Dr. Galea’s guilty plea juices speculation Add to ...

Colin Cowherd of ESPN thinks the guilty plea from Canadian physician Anthony Galea on U.S. drug-smuggling charges raises some uncomfortable questions. On Thursday, the radio host tweeted, “Why would an elite Amaerican athlete [Tiger Woods] use a sketchy canadian doctor. of top 20 world hospitals – 18 are here. zero in canada. fact.”

Well, you don’t have to raise your voice, Colin. Before you get all touchy, Cowherd did allow on his show that Canada does a better job distributing health care to the middle class. “It’s great, it’s peachy keen.”

(Lest you think he’s just a dumb American, Cowherd also said how much he liked Stanley Park in Vancouver, Toronto’s “a rockin’ place” and “Montreal has the Jazz Festival.”)

So at least we have that going for us. Oh wait, he also said we claim our health care is free, but it’s not. “If you’re an American who’s got money, you’re not going to Ot-tow-a for health care.” Cruel but fair. Now about that Tiger Woods thing …

Burke’s Law

Let’s say you work in the investment community. Someone invites you on a mission to see Canadian troops in Afghanistan on Feb. 28, the last day for RRSP contributions. It’s your busiest day of the business year. What do you do? It’s definitely a worthy cause – the worthiest. But isn’t it also your job to make sure your clients are best served by your full attention that day? Don’t you tell the Afghan folks, “Next time?”

So why is it sacrilegious for media to ask why Toronto Maple Leafs general manager Brian Burke said yes to visiting the Afghan mission when he knew full well it corresponded with July 1, the first day of NHL free agency? The cause is noble, but if there’s a day when you want your GM’s full attention, would that not be July 1? And if he had the blessing of his bosses at team owner Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment, isn’t that an issue about its priorities? Where’s the good of the team in all this goodness?

Instead, when Steve Simmons of the Toronto Sun broached these questions, Burke said he was “deeply offended” by the columnist’s suggestion that he was less than 100-per-cent engaged in the day’s free-agent activities because he was overseas. Burke felt his voluminous staff could do the job, and he was always available by cellphone. Well … he’s entitled to his opinion.

We hold no great affection for Simmons, but, come on, what optics did Burke and MLSE think were being sent by the Maple Leafs GM playing ball hockey in Kandahar while coveted free agent Brad Richards’s destiny was in the balance? That they’re swell citizens? Great. Every year we donate to ALS research, the Salvation Army and the Mustard Street Ministry. Does that mean we can cover Game 7 of the Stanley Cup final from a fundraiser and still be giving it our full attention?

Whether it’s front-loaded contracts, extended Christmas trading freezes or moonlight in Kandahar, Burke’s Law mandates that he be seen as exceptional. Funny, we always thought it was the team, not the GM, that was meant to be exceptional. Silly us.

Grain of salt?

What’s truly risible is the notion, perpetuated in one newspaper, that Burke takes the slings and arrows directed his way “with a grain of salt.” Really? Is there a shorter leash for indignation in the hockey business than Burke’s? There are a lot of positive things that describe Burke, but stoic is not one of them.

Marek to Rogers

As we reported Monday, Jeff Marek has jumped to Rogers Sportsnet from CBC. Marek tells Usual Suspects that the multitude of platforms Rogers offers was too good to turn down. “I’ll be making appearances on The Fan 590 and Fan 960 [in Calgary], anchoring Hockeycentral when Daren Millard is not available, filing for [ Sportsnet] Connected, working on the digital side and anchoring special events,” Marek said via text message. “We’re still working out the precise work flow.”

While Marek wouldn’t say as much, he felt stymied at CBC, where veterans such as Ron MacLean weren’t going away any time soon. With CBC no sure bet to retain the NHL TV rights in Canada past 2014, Marek went looking for greener pastures.

Everything old new again

Okay, who’s the second-longest serving host of his show on Sportsnet Radio Fan 590’s these days? That would be Globe and Mail stalwart Jeff Blair, who’s behind Bob McCown by about a quarter-century in service. Blair, who went full-time last October, is a grizzled vet compared with Greg Brady and Jim Lang (6 a.m. to 9 a.m. Eastern), Gord Stellick (noon to 2 p.m.) and Eric Smith (2 p.m. to 4 p.m.).

Yes, that’s Gord-O, the Accidental GM, back on the air again, while Hockeycentral takes a pause for the summer. Didn’t he used to be “yesterday’s news” a year ago at The Fan? We can hardly wait for Don Landry’s comeback in the near future.

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