Sunday, November 30, 2008

And in the beginning, there was a guy named Burke

A driver, a car and all the trappings of power, just one of the many observations from Hockey Night in Canada’s Burkefest on Saturday, an interesting bit of reporting that followed the Day One travels of the newly announced arrival (and departure for the HNIC studios) of the Moses of the hockey set.

On Saturday night Burke was shown walking through the caverns of the Air Canada Centre, stepping into a nice shiny black car and with a wave to the cameras was off for an audience with Ron McLean, ready to deliver the first of what the CBC hope will be many sermons from Mount Maple Leaf on a Saturday night.

The Burke era in Toronto officially got underway on Saturday, first with the official announcement and press conference in the early afternoon, followed by his pre game appearance on Hockey Night in Canada’s preview show.

We learned that his teams are tenacious and tough, that there are key players and plumbers alike all to contribute to greater good. If any immediate changes are on his mind they will take place fast, as he has set a Christmas armistice on trades starting in early December, so as not to disrupt the players and their families during the Christmas holidays.

There have been many references to religious like devotion to the Leafs in the last few days, Burke himself describing the Leafs job as though a position at the Vatican. Which we guess makes him the Pope of Hockey; we assume he’s being measured for robes as we write this.

Of course, now that the announcement has been made and the blessings delivered, it’s time to get to work. The Leafs have been so far removed from any form of competitive bid for Lord Stanley’s Mug that it will take more than a few months to become a serious contender.

Still, in a town that is desperate for some sort of sign that the right path has finally been chosen, there will be a lot riding on the arrival of Burke. He brings a reputation of success from Anaheim, and as one of the key architects of a Vancouver team that came as close as any in that city’s NHL history to claiming a Stanley Cup.

Brash, occasionally combative and a gold mine for media quotes, he will certainly change the nature of the Maple Leafs, take no abuse from the Toronto Media and demand a lot from his players and coaches.

It truly will be a new era for the normally farcical nature of the Maple Leafs, a long overdue arrival of a well known NHL icon to guide one of the league’s most challenging and important of franchises.

It’s as they say the Big Show for Burke now, Vancouver was a big step in his career, crafting a team in a hockey mad market with a rather competitive media scene, Anaheim was where he found success in the form of a Cup, though the achievement was hidden for the most part in the malls and canyons of Orange County.
In Toronto, he trades the anonymity of California for the fishbowl existence of Canada’s largest city.

He’ll find that the media spotlight, like it was in Vancouver will be intense, every moved observed, every word parsed, examined and digested.

The simple task of getting into a shiny black car to drive to a television studio examined as though Patton has crossed the Rhine.

It’s by far his biggest step thus far in his NHL career, if he succeeds in turning around the Leafs he very well may qualify for Papal status and perhaps sainthood beyond.

If he fails, he’ll probably understand intimately exactly how the days of the Spanish Inquisition played out.

For Day one, all was well in Leafland, while they're new boss watched from the executive suite, the Leafs defeated the Philadelphia Flyers in a convincing style, stopping a five game losing skid with a 4-2 victory for the home folk.

A nice little welcoming gift for the new boss, and a trend that they will want to continue with if they hope to keep working for him in the future.

Globe and Mail-- Burke officially joins Maple Leafs
Globe and Mail-- Leafs show some fight
National Post-- Burke settles into his hockey "dream job"
National Post-- Burke watches Leafs end five-game skid
Toronto Sun-- Lessons from Burke C.I.
Toronto Sun-- Burke 'perfect guy' for Toronto
Toronto Sun-- Man, myth, legend
Toronto Star-- Burke takes helm of Maple Leafs
Toronto Star-- Leaf players hope to be part of better days
Toronto Star-- When Wasting Time Might Be Worth It
Toronto Star-- Burke's no genius on draft
Toronto Star-- Best or worst yet to come for Leafs?

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