In the name of rebuilding his hockey club, Brian Burke has been to a lot of places in search of Toronto Maple Leaf players. He's canvassed college hallways from Denver to Indiana, he's made pitches to players in Berlin and Danderyd and he's been on the phone for days on end to GM's in Calgary, Anaheim and Chicago to name a few. Yes, MLSE has spent a fair chunk of change on long-distance phone bills and Air Canada flight passes to ensure Brian Burke could leave no stone unturned. It's an investment Leaf fans have been more than happy to see their team willing to make.
Burke's latest traverse in search of free talent may be the one that does cross the line for some fans - rookie camp invitee Mike Liambas. While the name might not immediately ring a bell you only have to hear "that guy who was suspended for all of last season in the OHL for that gruesome hit to head on a 16 year-old", and you know exactly who I'm talking about. I can remember where I was when I heard that news - in my car on the DVP in the northbound lane on my way to a tile shop, listening to the Fan 590. It takes a special amount of stomach turn for level of pinpoint recollection doesn't it?
Now Mike Liambas will share the ice with the likes of Jerry D'Amigo and Nazem Kadri starting Saturday in London as the Leafs rookie tourny kicks off at 2pm. I just had a quick scour of MapleLeafs.com and while Liambas is indeed mentioned on the roster, it was only because of the good folks over at PPP that I knew this was the same Erie Otters player who ended his own junior career with the vicious hit. No talk about his past at all on the Leafs site.
The Star just a few minutes ago published their own story about Liambas, one I haven't read yet but you can find it here.
So how will people in Toronto and elsewhere feel about this? Does everybody deserve a second chance? Should the Leafs have a certain standard as far as character of players allowed to wear our jersey and if so has Burke crossed the line?
I'm not sure how I feel about it just yet. We probably all agree that mistakes are a human condition and that most people deserve a second chance, but from what I can tell this kid had been pretty dirty most of his career and while everybody likes an agitator or a good scrap, has this kid ever played the game right?
One thing is for sure, this is bound to cause some waves and for the sake of Burke and his team, I hope this kid is worth it.