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Groundhog Day For Burke

by Staff Writer / Toronto Maple Leafs
Monday was Day No. 87 of Brian Burke's tenure as the president and general manager of the Toronto Maple Leafs. Not one day has passed without him thinking or dreaming of ways to make the storied franchise a Stanley Cup contender again.

"I've taken the odd day off because I have young children, but I'm always thinking and it aggravates my wife," Burke told "We'll be watching TV and I'll write a note down. She's like, 'You never turn it off, do you?' Well, you can't. You wake up in the morning trying to think of ways to beat 29 other GMs. Then you go to sleep at night dreaming of ways to beat them. And, they're all doing the same thing."

Burke called the pressure on him "unrelenting, and that's a good thing." He said the challenge that comes with holding arguably the most criticized job in Canada save maybe - and only maybe - for the Prime Minister has been everything he expected it to be.

He tries not to listen to everybody who wants to throw in their two cents about what he should do at this year's trade deadline, but admits sometimes he overhears conversations and gets a chuckle out of them.

"In my professional life I have worked more in Canada than outside of Canada and the pressure on Canadian teams is terrific," Burke said. "I love that. I think it makes the GM better, the coach better and the players better. Yeah, there are 19,000 people here (Saturday at the Air Canada Centre) and there are 19,000 opinions on what I should do.

"You can't listen. It's not a popularity contest. I'm not running for office. I'm going to do what I think is best for the hockey club long-term and if it's popular fine, but if it's not that's fine, too."

Tinkering with his team at the trade deadline is not customary for Burke, whose teams have qualified for the playoffs every season since 2000-01 when he was in Vancouver. The Anaheim Ducks won the 2007 Stanley Cup on his watch.

The Maple Leafs haven't made the playoffs since 2004, so Burke doesn't expect to be a spectator come March 4.

"I try to put my team together before Christmas and leave them alone," he said. "This year will probably be different and I hope it is."

He said he owes it to the loyal Toronto fans to make them believe in their team again.

"I think Toronto has the best fans on the planet, not just in hockey and not just in North America," Burke said. "I can testify to that by saying wherever else I worked, whenever we played Toronto there were always 3,000 or 4,000 Leaf fans in the building. I've witnessed it first hand. It's a wonderful thing and we've got to give them some reward for this awesome loyalty.
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