One of the interesting sidebars to the Toronto Maple Leafs hiring Brian Burke is that Maple Leaf fans will no longer be able to accuse those who run the organization of being a bunch of money-grubbing slimeballs who have no regard for the Leaf tradition or the on-ice product as long as the money kept rolling in.
Forget for a moment that it was never, ever true. The Maple Leaf ownership has been a lot of things – incompetent comes to mind fairly quickly – but it has always been steered by those who have a personal investment in seeing the Maple Leafs win the Stanley Cup. Of course they loved making money.
Ask anyone who runs any of the other 29 teams in the league and they’ll tell you that’s one of the primary goals of the business.
It was also largely a myth that the Leafs board of directors, led by the powerful Ontario Teachers’ Pension Plan, was a meddlesome crew that stuck its nose into hockey affairs. First of all, there’s not an executive in the league from Ken Holland down to Don Waddell who doesn’t need to run major signings and transactions by the people who sign the checks. Yes, board chairman Larry Tanenbaum did essentially force former GM John Ferguson to sign his good friend Tie Domi to a contract, but the board largely approved almost every move each GM brought before it.
But now any chance of meddling is gone with the hiring of Burke. There will be no dispute as to who is in charge of the hockey department now and Burke will have unfettered authority to make any and all moves without having to gain approval.
His contract does stipulate he must report directly to Richard Peddie, but make no mistake, Peddie will no longer have any say in hockey affairs and it’s rumored his run with the team will end in August when his contract is up.
Burke would have it no other way. Peddie has largely been emasculated from the hockey decision-making process and for that, Leafs fans should be eternally thankful.
Starting Saturday when, it’s anticipated, Burke is officially named GM, this is his show to do with it as he sees fit. The Leafs board and Peddie will fade into the background as the faceless corporate types who sign the checks and keep their mouths shut when it comes to hockey matters.
Any success or failure the Leafs have from now on will be solely attributed to Burke. He insisted it be that way and for the first time in decades, there will be no mistaking where the buck stops when it comes to the Maple Leafs on-ice fortunes.
Ken Campbell, the author of Habs Heroes: The Greatest Canadiens Ever from 1 to 100, is The Hockey News’ senior writer and a regular contributor to THN.com. His blog appears Wednesday and Fridays and his column, Campbell’s Cuts, appears Mondays.
For more great profiles, news and views from the world of hockey, Subscribe to The Hockey News magazine.