TORONTO (CP) - John Muckler is next in line for an interview with Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment as the mega-sports empire continues its search for a senior advisor to help out the hockey club's general manager, John Ferguson.
A source told The Canadian Press that the interview with MLSE was to be held as early as Friday. A call to Muckler was not immediately returned Thursday. Muckler, 73, was replaced as Ottawa Senators GM by head coach Bryan Murray after the season and declined a chance to stay on as a consultant.
MLSE would have needed permission from the Senators to interview Muckler. Sens owner Eugene Melnyk hasn't blocked any attempt from any other team to talk to Muckler.
"We have received inquiries from more than one team and permission has certainly been granted," Senators president and CEO Roy Mlakar said Thursday, while not naming which teams. "It was never Mr. Melnyk's intention to ever hold anybody back, particularly someone that we hold in as high esteem as John Muckler."
If Muckler is hired, it would add yet more spice to the Battle of Ontario.
Meanwhile, the man MLSE originally wanted for the senior advisor job confirmed he turned it down.
"Yes, I talked with them, about a month ago before the draft," legendary coach Scotty Bowman told The Canadian Press on Thursday.
But Bowman, who remains a paid consultant with the Detroit Red Wings, didn't take Toronto's offer.
"No, I've been with the Red Wings for 14 years," Bowman said. "I've got my space and time. I enjoy what I do. I don't do a lot for them but when they need something they call me.
"I'm happy with my lot in Detroit," he added.
As first reported by the Globe and Mail, veteran Nashville Predators GM David Poile was also approached by MLSE for the advisor job, which sources confirmed to CP on Thursday. But he is not interested in the Toronto job, sources said, wanting to finish what he started in Nashville.
Another name that's been mentioned as a possible target is longtime Philadelphia Flyers GM Bob Clarke, now a senior vice-president with the NHL club. But he said Thursday he hadn't heard from Toronto.
"No, I haven't had any contact with the Leafs," Clarke told CP.
However, he did say that a third party contacted him in May.
"And I told him if the Leafs wanted to talk to me, I'd certainly welcome sitting down and talking to them," said Clarke. "But I haven't heard anything from them."
MLSE president and CEO Richard Peddie refused comment on Muckler when reached Thursday but did say via e-mail that the organization had never offered Clarke a job.
Last week Peddie told CP, without naming Bowman or anyone else by name, that a search was indeed under way to find a senior hockey consultant.
"We think John (Ferguson) has lots more upside," Peddie said last Thursday. "He's got the potential to become a very, very good general manager one day - an excellent one. And we think he should get some help. We talked to John about that and he embraced it enthusiastically. So we're considering that and we're talking to people."
Peddie wants to create the situation MLSE has on the basketball side, where president and GM Bryan Colangelo is surrounded by assistant GM Maurizio Gherardini and senior basketball advisor Wayne Embry - both longtime basketball men.
"We like what's happened there," said Peddie.
Ferguson, 39, has one year left on his contract as Leafs GM.
Bowman, meanwhile, was flattered by Toronto's interest, but it was a no-go.
"If I didn't have something to do with Detroit I would have been more interested," Bowman said. "But it's something where I wanted to finish my career with Detroit. They've been good to me and I've been good to them. I've got a good relationship with the owner Mike Illitch. ... We've been together for 14 years and I just didn't feel comfortable (leaving). ...
"I would have an awful time explaining why I was leaving Detroit."
Bowman has been a consultant with the Wings for five years since stepping down as head coach. That was supposed to happen much earlier.
"Actually, when I went there 14 years ago, I was going to coach for two years and then hopefully have an affiliation with them," he said. "Of course the two years became nine."