For the National Hockey League, opening day of free agency is considered by many to be one of the biggest days on the league’s calendar. The opportunity to participate in signings and trades involving some of the league’s most talented superstars is a key date and goal to the success of many teams. General Managers and team personnel are expected to focus all their energy on making their team better by negotiating with the top free agents on the market. However, for one of the sport’s most iconic and historic teams with some of the most loyal fans in the world of sports; the Toronto Maple Leafs saw their General Manager and President Brian Burke fly overseas to visit Canadian Troops on Canada Day.
To some, the act was irresponsible and frowned upon; with some calling Burke a bad GM. Others saw the move as noble and much respected; the leader of one of Canada’s most iconic franchises visited our countries heroes on our country’s birthday. Throughout his time in Toronto, Brian Burke has always been vocal in supporting our troops and has paid multiple visits to our troops halfway across the world. Since Burke has joined the Maple Leafs organization, the sense of pride within the city of Toronto and the pride in our country has become relevant game in and game out.
Maple Leafs defenseman and former first-round selection Luke Schenn also made the trip with Burke, as he too is an avid supporter of the Canadian Troops. Luke’s Troops gives men and women from the Canadian Armed Forces a chance to go out and watch Leaf games, as well as raise awareness and support for families of military members. Through Luke’s Troops, those who serve for our country are recognized and applauded by the thousands in attendance for what they do for us; an ovation which they may not receive day in and out.
The Toronto Maple Leafs are not the only team in the NHL or professional sports who show admiration for those who risk their lives for the millions of civilians back home. Gratitude and appreciation for what these men and women do is constantly visible at sporting events and even sports entertainment such as the WWE. Don Cherry of Coaches Corner constantly reminds viewers each week on Hockey Night in Canada about the sacrifices so many individuals make allowing us to live comfortably. When it comes to the Canadian Armed Forces, the men and women taking part don’t always receive the respect and recognition they deserve and it seems at times it is to be kept on the backburner.
For Brian Burke, causing a stir while doing what seems to be the right thing to do is nothing new. Burke participates in Toronto’s Pride Parade every year in honor of his late son Brendan Burke, and has connected the blue and white Maple Leaf to the city of Toronto on more than a hockey level. A true advocate for doing what he believes in and putting others first has made Burke a positive role model for hockey and sports fans young and old.
From a hockey standpoint, questions will continue to be raised as to whether Burke should have gone overseas on Canada Day or not; but from a humanitarian outlook, what he did was the right thing to do. On what was an emotional day for the Canadian Soldiers as it was their last Canada Day they would spend in Afghanistan; Brian Burke and Luke Schenn took the opportunity to thank them for what they have put on the line for the last five years and everything they have sacrificed to protect our country.