Brian Burke has a gloriously symbiotic relationship with the media. He needs them as a conduit to the fans, as a megaphone for his views and, at times, as cheerleaders for his cause. And they need him to open his mouth and let the words fall out, transcribe it, slap a byline on it and call it a day because it's undoubtedly gold.
For example, when Burke spoke at a fundraiser in Toronto this week in support of the Canadian Safe School Network and the fight against LGBTQ bullying. The Calgary Flames president joined his successor with the Toronto Maple Leafs, GM Dave Nonis, as well as Leafs captain Dion Phaneuf on a hockey panel. The Toronto Sun hit “record” and captured some candid comments from Burke on one of his favorite subjects: the media.
Like that 95 percent of media in Toronto are “conscientious, thorough guys” while the other 5 percent … well, “it’s a shame that we’re not allowed to kick the [poop] out of them,” he said.
Here’s Burke on the Toronto media:
“So the 20% (of the unethical media guys) say, ‘Okay, I need an angle.’ So a guy has to write for tomorrow. ‘Who you going to blame for the loss? Okay, I’m going to pick Dion (Phaneuf).’ And the next paper, or the next radio station guy says, ‘We’ll go after Dave Nonis, or we’ll get Dave Poulin. We haven’t gotten him in a while.’ So it’s like the shotgun blast, and everyone gets it to some extent. So, to me, what’s wrong in this marketplace is the scope of it and the breadth of it, not the ethics of the people involved, which by and large I had no problem with how I was treated here by the group. But the reach, it’s like, ‘I have to have something different.’ It’s not ‘Get it right’ here. It’s ‘Get it first’ here, or ‘Don’t be last’ here. You don’t have to be right here. Just got to write something that no one else has.”
But again: The Leafs need the media, and at the end of the day it’s better to play ball with them. Burke relayed the advice they used to give the players:
“The speech we give to the players at the start of the year — Dion remembers — I said, ‘Look, I don’t care if you like these guys or not. We need them. We can only get 19,000 people here, which we do every goddamned night. We need to reach the other five million. So we need the media.’”
Even if, at the end of the day, Burke doesn’t exactly care what’s written about him. But as he said, that intensity of coverage is a symptom of working in a hockey mad environment:
“I don’t give a rat’s ass what they write,” he added. “But I do think, to be fair, I don’t feel like I got abused here by the media. I feel the treatment was largely fair. Do I feel that some stuff was handled in a horse (poop) way? Yep. But you’re in Canada, people care about hockey here. The price you pay for working in Canada is you’re going to get some horses(poop) stuff. The beauty is, people love this game and care about this game. It’s not the same anywhere else. That’s why I’ve worked in Canada all my adult life when I can.”
Read the full piece for more, including Nonis’ vow that he doesn’t read or listen to the media and a bit from Phaneuf about the Toronto media market’s affect on players: “The difference between other Canadian markets and here is that there’s more cameras. If there’s five in Calgary, there’s 25 in a scrum in Toronto. And that’s just the way it is and something you have to deal with being a player here in Toronto,” he said.