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Brian Burke's Off-Ice Slapshots

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A big win against the Montreal Canadiens aside, one thing is apparent to the fans of the Toronto Maple Leafs (at least the ones who are realists): The team is likely going to miss the playoffs for an unprecedented seventh straight season. And the great Brian Burke experiment has been a disaster bordering on a fiasco.

Still, the Brian Burke story is more than merely yet another tale of a hockey general manager flaming out in Hogtown. Rather, the real story of Brian Burke is what a despicable human being this man is when he doesn't get his way or he takes offence to fair criticism.

Indeed, Burke is a vengeful man, and he has been successful in terminating the employment of at least two journalists because he thought they were being too hard on his sad sack team.

Imagine that: Burke uses the weapon of economic penalization against members of the Fifth Estate if he can't take the heat.

Indeed, I reported on John Oakley's "Media and the Message" show on AM640 last Thursday that Burke tried to get yet another Toronto journalist fired for having the temerity to report a story that is 100 per cent true albeit embarrassing for Burke.

Thankfully, he failed in his vengeful efforts. A good thing, too: for the scribe he tried to get terminated is a true gem.

In any event, I had no idea how vindictive Burke is until I caught "Coach's Corner" on Hockey Night in Canadaon Saturday. That's when Don Cherry revealed that Burke actually tried to get Grapes fired too.

Incredible.

Cherry noted how Burke "went behind my back" to complain about him to the CBC to "deflect" attention away from his team's losing ways.

Said a visibly upset Cherry: "I thought this stuff was over but it is quite obvious what Brian is doing. He is trying to deflect from his team's performance missing the playoffs three years running at my expense and to be a hero to his players at my expense."

Burke told QMI Agency this week he "raised the issue quietly and professionally" and while he likes Cherry, his weekly "vicious and cutting" remarks on players and ex-Leafs coach Ron Wilson have "got to stop."

"Vicious"? Wow. Pot meet kettle; kettle meet pot.

Cherry also apparently upset Burke with his Coach's Corner comment that Wilson "couldn't care less" when he did not join the mass applause for the troops at the Canadian Armed Forces appreciation night last month.

"I guess Brian is mad at me for criticizing his coach for not acknowledging our 500 troops at the New York Rangers-Toronto game where they honoured our troops."

Wilson has in the past responded by saying: "I'll compare my record with Don Cherry."

But Cherry scored a knockout punch in rebuttal noting: "I have to admit I lost twice to Montreal in the finals and lost again to Montreal in the semifinals seventh game in overtime. But maybe Ron is right because since he's been with the Leafs he hasn't lost a playoff game."

As for Burke, on "Coach's Corner" on Saturday, a not-so-cheery Cherry slammed Burke's delusions of grandeur in terms of getting people he doesn't like fired.

Said Cherry: "I say what I think. I am not pussy-footing around like some guys, you know what I mean? I don't go on and ask him soft questions... He wants my job, he wants to get me fired, he goes behind my back to my bosses to try and get me fired. Not only that, he went to the [NHL] governors and said it, too. ALL RIGHT, NOW, I DON'T CARE! YOU WANT TO GET ME OFF? YOU WANT TO TAKE ME ON? Two years ago you said you were going to do something to me in the playoffs. REMEMBER THAT? And I said, "OOOH, Brian Burke, I'm shakin' in my boots! I'm shakin' right now! DO YOUR BEST!"

Way to go, Don; It's always a delight to see someone stand up to a bully. (Ever notice that both "Burke" and "bully" are five-letter words beginning with "B-U"? Just saying...)

The really sad thing about Burke's ham-fisted truculence is that the benchmark for success in Toronto is so low. For the Leafs' beleaguered fans, a successful season isn't about winning a Stanley Cup or going to the Conference Finals these days -- it's merely about making the playoffs.

As an aside, some Burke defenders say Scotty Bowman is an arrogant hockey executive, too. But guess what? Bowman has almost as many Stanley Cup rings as he has fingers. What's Burke's justification for being such an arrogant S.O.B.?

Oh, I'll grant you this: If the measure of success for a hockey general manager in Toronto is the number of times he prances down Church Street during the Gay Pride Parade, then Brian Burke is indeed the second coming of Punch Imlach.

But if we are to judge Burke by the laughable product he's assembled on the ice, he's not only a loser -- he's a sore loser at that.