Burke Could Be Last Man Standing


TORONTO (Aug. 22) — As of this morning, Mike Milbury was still employed as a hockey analyst for NBC Sports, a position he has held since parting company with the New York Islanders in 2007. Milbury did not work, as scheduled, Game 6 of the Montreal–Philadelphia Stanley Cup playoff series Friday night after the network and the National Hockey League censured him for an observation made over the air on Thursday.

While calling the Islanders–Washington match with John Forslund, Milbury commented on the NHL “bubble” environment, saying “there are not even any women here to disrupt your concentration.” For those familiar with the former Boston Bruins defenseman, it was a characteristic attempt at irreverence and hardly the most–abhorrent remark in the history of sports broadcasting. In our touchy–feely universe, however, it went over like a lead balloon, initiating the predictable sh**–storm on social media. Given the firing of Don Cherry by Rogers Communications last November for a similarly insensitive, yet benign, comment, I don’t like the odds of Milbury keeping his job. Network bigwigs, today, seem to look for the most–convenient excuse to terminate a pundit that offers strong opinion, which has always been the hallmark of sports commentary. And, of course, to save money, which Rogers accomplished by the bushel–full in removing Cherry. In our environment of correctness and decorum, it was plain stupid for Milbury to let out a one–liner about the opposite sex. Of course, if a woman broadcaster had said “there aren’t even any fellow men to disrupt your concentration,” it would have drawn a chuckle as a temperate wisecrack. Not so the other way around. As such, and likely contingent upon whether the uproar continues, Milbury is walking a tight–rope today.


If he is canned by NBC, it will leave Brian Burke of Sportsnet as the last man standing among those, in network hockey, that offer blunt, assertive narration. Perhaps Brian is too savvy to fall into the Cherry–Milbury trap, yet words on live media occasionally manifest and cannot be choked back. I got into trouble, some years ago, after making a comment on The FAN–590 that defamed the alleged character of Sean Avery, for Crissakes. Thousands may have been cheering my slipshod remark, but the law is the law.

Since he first appeared on Sportsnet and Hockey Night In Canada last year, I have loudly commended Burke as the best addition to sports analysis, in recent memory, across the land. I maintain he is being underutilized by the network, particularly during game telecasts, and have often wondered if he is satisfied with his role. In that vain, I emailed Brian on Friday, asking if he’d give me a quick call on the telephone. That he chose not to was disappointing, though hardly a surprise. Dating to his years as general manager of the Toronto Maple Leafs — and to my final years covering the team for Canada’s first all–sports radio station — Brian hasn’t thought much of me, personally or professionally. Which is his prerogative. My attitude toward him changed irreversibly when his son, Brendan, was killed in an auto accident just days before the 2010 Vancouver Winter Olympics. That Brian summoned the courage and fortitude to attend the Games as GM of the United States men’s hockey team was the most–inspiring act of my 23 years in radio. But, I digress.

Several months ago, I was told by a Rogers “insider” that Burke’s profile on Hockey Night In Canada would increase. Whether or not the pandemic interruption curtailed those plans, I cannot answer. Earlier this month, however, an email arrived from a former Sportsnet employee — instantly recognizable to all hockey fans in Canada. It read: “Just one note, confidentially, on your Brian Burke comment. [Rogers] will never again build up or create as big a star as ‘Grapes’ (Cherry). They want inner–replaceable pieces that don’t ask for big dollars or hold them hostage, as ‘Grapes’ did. Creating stars based on longevity; those days are over.”


Whether this was inside information, or opinion, I found it intriguing. As I’ve written here on numerous occasions, Rogers went on a dumping spree last year in order to save its media wing from catastrophe, given the ridiculous, 12–year, $5.2–billion contract it agreed to in 2013 for national broadcast rights to the NHL. The six and seven–figure salaries of Cherry, Bob McCown, Nick Kypreos, Doug MacLean, John Shannon, George Stromboulopoulos, Bob Cole and Paul Romanuk were chopped, several years after the company’s best game–analyst, Glenn Healy, suffered the same fate. So, sadly, it does appear as if Rogers is “holding back” on Burke, lest he become popular in the Don Cherry realm and derive a commensurate salary.

With Milbury, as of this writing, still on the NBC payroll, Burke at least has a hockey counterpart south of the border. If Milbury is rinsed for his comment about women, Brian will move into the on–deck circle.

Sadly, and unnaturally, he’d best be very careful.


14 comments on “Burke Could Be Last Man Standing

  1. If Don Cherry, Mike Milbury and Brian Burke were and are the “last men standing” then we as a gender were doomed long ago. All 3 of them offered weak and outdated analysis that combined with their lacklustre track records in the sport, just don’t justify keeping them on in positions where their opinions are to be taken seriously.

    Since he’s the subject now, for starters Milbury was a colossal failure at every level of the game: as a player he was a meat-headed thug on the level of Ron Artest (except Artest was actually good, an MVP caliber player when he made his mistake), as a coach his only Cup Finals appearance was with a team that had already been there 2 years prior, and as a GM he was possibly the worst the sport has ever seen, setting his Islanders back a good 25 years. Sent home and possibly fired for sexist comments? He never should’ve been hired in the first place!

    And Cherry, since you mentioned him? A B+ coach at best, with one great year but who could never win the big one; and a failure in his one season without the star-studded Bruins. Follow that up with 40 years of frankly bigoted statements; another guy who should’ve been canned long ago.

    And Burke, well, ask Leafs and Flames fans what they think of him – his antics set both teams back at least a few years, maybe even a decade. I personally have never forgiven him for how he treated Peter Zezel in Vancouver. He’s coasted on one great trade (although to get guys who were never going to play apart) and one Cup (with a team he came to at the last minute) for well over a decade. His support of LGBT rights aside he’s been bad for the league, especially for a couple of its most crucial teams.

    These are your “last men standing”? A trio of mediocre, elderly bullies? Some men. If that’s the case then men are already over. What’s next, you’re gonna tell me Pierre McGuire is the Alphaest of males? What a joke.

  2. Men are & will continue to be chauvinist, mysogenous, insensitive nuckle dragging neanderthals until the end of time.

  3. Off-Topic but did want to point out the great article on the NY Post about Lamoriello and his great quote “If I’m gonna be damned,” Lamoriello said, “I’m gonna be damned for doing.”

    I admit I’m feeling a sting knowing that Lou’s team is advancing while Toronto Players are out on the links quaffing brewskis.

    I’m still backing Dubas but waiting to see what happens in the the offseason – LOL – What offseason? The 2020 season is due to start in a few months.

  4. If you have ever sat on the bench you would understand his comment. I really don’t think he said it to hurt anyone it’s just what the guys do during the game. Bowling green had the best college girls during my time and yes we looked around the rink and made comments

    V f

  5. Well done Katie Strang, Christine Simpson and the rest of the snowflake brigade. So, what Milbury said was just SO awful that he had to lose his job? He inferred that women can sometimes be a distraction to men. So, they’re not? Do either of you live on the same planet I’m on? Come on. No lapses in judgement Chris? Really? You either Katie? Hope you’re both happy with your efforts. And hearty congratulations on the very successful careers you’ve both managed, despite clearly being so repressed by the current hockey culture. #sarcasm

  6. I have struggled to understand how Mike Milbury’s comment fits the crime. I also don’t put Mike Milbury nor Brian Burke in the same category as Don Cherry when it comes to politically incorrect comments.

  7. I cannot believe how sensitive the Media has become over the last couple of years, we are taking innocent comments and remarks and blowing them way out of proportion to the point where people are losing their jobs, political correctness has taken the place of freedom of thought freedom of expression; this is censorship at its best, the quality of broadcasting via radio or television is being diminished, it’s being diminished because of censorship and political correctness, to think twice before we actually give a thought, the firing of Don Cherry, Bob McCown, Nick kypreos, Doug Maclean, was the crack in the dam the beginning of the landslide, the quality of analyst that have been reporting sports for years now is being wiped out, The Replacements that will take their place will be so fearful of making the wrong comment and losing their jobs that they will be unable to keep the sports reporting entertaining enough to keep everyone tuned in, the onslaught of analysts that were let go last year, Hockey Night in Canada for me will never be the same without those personalities to entertain. Political correctness and censorship is Wrecking havoc on some real quality sports analyst and the entertainment they bring to our living rooms and radio,

  8. Absolutely ridiculous the way we as a society can no longer tolerate any type of light jab. Soft soft soft. Quit appealing to the easily offended. Grow up NBC have a spine.

  9. I am beyond thrilled that you have an indepndant voice, and you can freely comment as you wish. Leafs apologists didn’t tolerate Damien Cox or Glenn Healey, they were too critical of their beloved blue and white. Today’s ridiculous over sensitive culture (partially sparked by younger generations constantly being “offended” by everything) have disfigured the field of media and sports commentary/analysts. It is really difficult to witness it happening in real time. To that end I wish Cherry would still publish his Rock’emSock’em tapes.
    I doubt that Brian Burke will fold, and if he does end up going, I hope he goes in a blaze of glory. Wake up Canada, the fabric of our national past time is slipping away. Howard, very grateful you are around and nobody can moderate your blogs except YOU. Please do not stop!

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