Blue and white disease: Is the pandemic over?
So I wrote this feature for the Star, about Brian Burke's war on "blue and white disease." On Sunday, I was chatting with Dave Poulin, the Leafs vice-president of hockey operations, and the topic was broached. He shared an anecdote about visiting Toronto as a member of the Philadelphia Flyers:
“We played against some bad Leaf teams here in the 1980s. And there was a sense of entitlement that came with the jersey, that came with the city. We would watch them skate in the morning skate and you would think they had won 9 Stanley Cups in a row. They’d be skating around without their helmets on. They had toothpicks, hair slicked back, turtlenecks on."
"Then what happened during the game?" I asked, without really wanting to hear the answer. "Would the Flyers go out and spank my team?"
“7-1," he replied. "You know, and we'd win 4 fights.”
So is it over? Has Burke found 20 guys who want to win as much as he does? Or will the market realities and distractions in this hockey-mad town eventually bring back the toothpicks and turtlenecks?
By the way, I shot the above picture on Saturday afternoon. It's Burke standing in his "War Room" at the MCC. Inspired by the NFL, The Wall lets Burke and his lieutenants see every player on every team at every position. As a colleague noted: "It's so analogue."
That it is. But with a passing glance, Burke can see which team is deep or thin at any position. When contemplating a trade, this perspective can (and has) made a big difference. (TRIVIA: Burke's record for staring at The Wall is 3 hours.)
PHOTO: VINAY MENON/TORONTO STAR