By HOWARD BERGER
SUNRISE, Fla. (Dec. 26) – Give a kid a toy, huh?
For Ron Wilson and Brian Burke – wealthy ex-college roommates and life-long pals – Twitter is proving the equivalent of that first model airplane received in kindergarten. The Leafs coach and general manager are having a virtual ball playing with the social-media colossus and whipping their combined 100,021 followers (as of Monday afternoon) into a frenzy.
Never mind that both men are closing in on 60.
Wilson dropped a couple of belated hints, as it turns out, of his two-year contract extension with the Maple Leafs prior to Christmas. After the club’s victory in Uniondale, N.Y. on Friday, the coach Tweeted a wish that Santa deliver “that certain piece of paper” to him as a gift. On Yuletide morning, he then up-dated the result of his yearning: “He came! He came!” Wilson exclaimed as part of his 140-character limit. “Remember that saying as a kid? Well, he did: I got a new Red Ryder BB and a contract extension.”
Within seconds, re-Tweeting of Wilson’s message by fans and reporters went viral. Burke – not wanting to miss out on the frivolity – put his thumbs into overdrive minutes later: “Congratulations to Ron Wilson on his contract extension! Merry Christmas Ron!” Confirmation of Wilson’s Tweet then added to the hysteria.
After practice on Monday at the MasterCard Center in Etobicoke – and before flying down here for tomorrow night’s game with the Florida Panthers – Wilson told the media he’d actually been extended by Burke three weeks earlier… or roughly around the time the coach suggested Jonas Gustavsson would start in goal on a Saturday night in Boston, 72 hours after informing James Reimer he would face the Bruins.
So, we don’t really know whether Wilson got his contract matter out of the way three weeks; three days or three hours before Christmas, do we? For that matter, should we believe the extension actually happened? Or will Burke wait until April 1 and Tweet: “Ha ha, the late-December thing with my coach was all just a gag to get people going.” How convenient that would be if the Leafs crumble in the latter half of the season and miss the playoffs for a seventh consecutive year.
Also on Monday, Burke told reporters why he chose to extend Wilson at mid-season. “When the coach goes into the cage, he needs the whip and the chair, not just one.”
Could this be a veiled reference – setting up a monster Tweet in the spring – that Wilson might join the circus if the Leafs nosedive?
Should you care to play in the sand with the two Leaf executives, log onto Twitter and follow @coachrw63 and @LeafsBB20.
Meantime, enjoy these images from here in sunny Florida:
IT WAS NONE-TOO SHABBY HERE MONDAY AFTERNOON, AS THE RETAIL WORLD AWAKENED AFTER A TWO-DAY CHRISTMAS SNOOZE (BELOW).
THE BANKATLANTIC CENTER (ABOVE) IS HOME OF THE FLORIDA PANTHERS, AMONG THE SURPRISE TEAMS IN THE FIRST HALF OF THE NHL SCHEDULE. THE LEAFS WILL MAKE THEIR FIRST OF TWO APPEARANCES HERE ON TUESDAY NIGHT.
NOT SURPRISINGLY, GIVEN THE CLIMATE, THE TWO MOST STUNNING ARENA EXTERIORS IN THE NHL ARE HERE IN SUNRISE (ABOVE) AND IN ANAHEIM (BELOW). PALM TREES AND LUSH GREENERY ABOUND IN EACH LOCATION.
THE COMPANY THAT MANAGES THE BANKATLANTIC CENTER ISN’T EXACTLY SHY ABOUT PROMOTING ITS CHIEF SPONSOR (BELOW).
ON SUNDAY, I DROVE TO NORTH MIAMI BEACH TO VISIT A FRIEND OF MINE FROM BACK HOME. CONDOMINIUMS LINING THE OCEAN-FRONT (ABOVE AND BELOW) PRESENT QUITE A SIGHT ON A MOSTLY-CLEAR WINTER DAY.
MY LAWYER-PAL IS ROUGHING IT, AS YOU CAN PLAINLY TELL IN THE PHOTOGRAPHS (ABOVE AND BELOW) TAKEN FROM HIS 44th-FLOOR CONDO BALCONY.
IT TURNED KIND OF GREY-ISH ON THE ATLANTIC COAST LATE SUNDAY AFTERNOON, THOUGH A WALK ALONG THE OCEAN-SHORE (ABOVE) AND A PARKING LOT DISPLAY BETWEEN BUILDINGS (BELOW) WERE BEAUTIFUL NONETHELESS.