As told to: Joe PackI enjoyed playing in Toronto. I think now it’s a little bit — I’ve said this before, I started with Pat Burns, and then we had Mike Murphy in there but we also had Pat Quinn. I think the media in general was a little bit less critical. I don’t think there was an angle always. We used to know these guys, we used to hang out with them, it wasn’t who can plant a seed and run with it, and have this story that’s not necessarily on the up-and-up. All the stuff that’s sort of tabloid, speculation stories — I don’t think it was like that, so much. I don’t know when it changed — I think about the time I was leaving, maybe, it got worse.
But with Pat Burns, you were walking on eggshells, a little bit. You never knew — he didn’t buddy up with any of the media, it was more like, How can I get Pat to say anything. So I think everybody was less likely to plant a story or say something that they shouldn’t in fear that maybe Pat would have something to say to them. Pat Quinn maybe, too. But after 2001/02, I think it started to change a little bit. Across the league: you could say that about a lot of Canadian cities for sure. Compared to Tampa — when I went to Tampa I remember thinking, Wow, this is still the NHL. It was like a different league. There was nothing that would even remotely compare to being in Toronto. I used to get off the subway and walk in on Carlton Street to the game and you’d get to know people in shops, and scalpers even. I like that part of it.
But with Pat Burns, you were walking on eggshells, a little bit. You never knew — he didn’t buddy up with any of the media, it was more like, How can I get Pat to say anything.
Just the spirit of it, the energy that you can create in the city, and that I didn’t get again until I was in Vancouver. And even in Winnipeg, when I was in the minors, it was the same kind of thing. Just being in the Canadian markets, that’s the way that is. Maybe Philly — being in Philadelphia, a little bit. But you can’t really duplicate what it is in Montreal, Toronto. Vancouver — I don’t think it will ever be as cutthroat as the other places, just because of the way the people are there, generally. It was a little more relaxed, a little different pace. I liked it.
Toronto now — it’s tough, I would guess. These guys ride these emotions. We had papers laying around — I think now you’d want keep all that out of the room and focus on what you’ve got to do. This group of guys seems to handle it pretty well. The leadership on the team is — you know, people call into question everybody, all the time — but I actually think it’s really good.
Playing in Finland — that’s definitely a hockey country. Walking down the street, my wife and I, people would talk to you about hockey. That was interesting. But Toronto, now, I think it’s another level, and I don’t think you can compare it to anything other than Montreal.
JOE PACK is a freelance writer based in Toronto and a rec-league rent-a-goalie.
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