“A Maple Leaf Christmas Carol”
â€˜Twas the night before the slowest news day of the NHL season! This means one thing:Â youâ€™ve got nothing better to do than read this extra special, ridiculously long Christmas post from MLHS and The Toronto Truculent.
â€œA Maple Leaf Christmas Carolâ€ will hopefully be considered a timeless cautionary tale about greed, friendship, and how a passionate fanbase can challenge even the best NHL executive. More realistically, it is a nonsensical combination of holiday jokes that’s destined to be ripped apart in the comments below for simply existing.
If the reader feedback is as unimpressed and generally annoyed about the length welcoming as we hope it will be, the story will be remade next year using stopmotion animation.
BRIAN BURKEâ€™S OFFICE, MLSE â€“ THE WEEK BEFORE CHRISTMAS
BURKE stares dejectedly at various documents â€“ reports of a failing PK, a drop in the standings, and various trade proposals for Eric Staal and Bobby Ryan.
The remains of a shredded necktie hang over his shoulders. Burkeâ€™s crunching something in his teeth â€“ and thereâ€™s an open box of staples nearby.
THE HALLWAY OUTSIDE
MLSE senior staff huddles together, trying to see through the frosted glass.
DAVE NONIS: I donâ€™t understand it â€“ he used to love Christmas. Was always in such a good mood after November and December.
RICK DUDLEY: That was before he worked in Toronto. Heyo!
CLAUDE LOISELLE: How are we supposed to ask for his help conducting any normal business?
DAVE NONIS: Don’t try. Anyone going in there looking for charity would have to be outright crazy or totally desperate…
BRIAN BURKEâ€™S OFFICE, MLSE
RON WILSON enters.
WILSON: Merry Christmas, Brian.
BURKE: [inaudible growl]
WILSON: So, about this extension-
WILSON: Donâ€™t do it for me. Do it for Tiny Tim.
TIM CONNOLLY looks around the corner. Smiles, waving a bandaged hand.
WILSON: Heâ€™s fragile. He needs the consistency of a coach who believes in him, or…[Ron starts to tear up]…Iâ€™m not sure heâ€™ll make it through the contract.
BURKE: Whatâ€™s wrong with his hand?
WILSON: Nothing. Thatâ€™s always there.
BURKE: Iâ€™ll give you an extension, Ron. Â If you can do one thing. Lift this hockey puck two feet off my desk with one hand – keeping it perfectly level – using only four fingers.
WILSON: But…itâ€™s so much harder to do that with only four fingers instead of five…
BURKE: Yes. Yes it is.
Visibly nervous, Wilson awkwardly tries to lift the puck…
THE HALLWAY OUTSIDE
Wilson reappears, frustrated. The door slams behind him. Connolly coughs.
WILSON: Give it up. Heâ€™s not buying it.
CONNOLLY: But my right lung actually hurts.
WILSON: So maybe stop turning sideways to block shots.
BRIAN BURKEâ€™S LIVING ROOM, CHRISTMAS EVE
Stiff Scotch in hand, BURKE lies down on his couch. Exhausted.
JOHN FERGUSON JR: Careful.
What Burke thought was a pillow is actually the lap of the Leafsâ€™ former General Manager. Who appeared suddenly, almost magically, out of nowhere.
BURKE: Fergie, how-
FERGUSON: Iâ€™m not John Ferguson Jr. Iâ€™m the Ghost of Christmas Past.
BURKE: But youâ€™re not dead.
FERGUSON: You know the abuse a person takes doing this job in Toronto. A part of me died here.
Their surroundings FADE AWAY…
MLSE CONFERENCE ROOM, CHRISTMAS EVE, 2005
Ghost Ferguson Jr. and Burke appear. A YOUNGER John Ferguson Jr. sits alone at the conference table, wearing a Santa hat and drinking hot chocolate. Wrapping presents in front of him amidst mounds of paperwork.
2006 FERGUSON (singing): Dashing over the blue line, no scoring winger on Matsâ€™ side…
BURKE: Whyâ€™s your dialogue red?
FERGUSON: To separate flashbacks from our conversation. Otherwise, this might get really confusing for the reader.
BURKE: Wow, you looked young. And happy.
FERGUSON: We havenâ€™t missed the playoffs by two points yet.
BURKE: What are those five meticulously wrapped presents on the table?
FERGUSON: No-trade clauses. The papers are scouting reports on Andrew Raycroft, Vesa Toskala, Jason Blake, and Jiri Tlusty.
BURKE: What does the blue cross on all of them mean?
BURKE: What are you trying to tell me that every other NHL executive didnâ€™t already know at the time?
FERGUSON: I threw myself into this job, totally dedicated. Countless hours in the office trying to make this team better, at the expense of time with my family and friends. And best intentions meant nothing, because I was still skewered for my results.
BURKE: Youâ€™re telling me Iâ€™m working too hard?
FERGUSON: Iâ€™m telling you bad pressure leads to bad decisions. A million naysayers â€“ inside and outside MLSE – wanted me to make one great shortsighted move to get the team in the playoffs. They didn’t understand – like my hockey staff and I did, believe it or not – that such a move would come at the expense of sustained success. Listen to your friends before you listen to your enemies.
Ferguson snaps his fingers.
BRIAN BURKEâ€™S OFFICE, MLSE, CHRISTMAS EVE 2011
Burke wakes up back in his condo. CLIFF FLETCHER is sitting in the armchair nearby.
BURKE: Okay. Youâ€™re definitely not dead.
FLETCHER: Might as well be. No one listens to me anymore.
BURKE: All youâ€™re really good at is trading with Calgary.
FLETCHER: Look, Iâ€™m the Ghost of Christmas Present. Deal with it.
BURKE: Fine. This is the montage-y one, right?
MASTERCARD CENTRE PRACTICE RINK
Burke and Fletcher appear at centre ice during a PENALTY KILL practice. A whiteboard nearby: PP 37 â€“ PK 2. CODY FRANSON scores on a point shot as the diamond coverage collapses. Wilson throws down his clipboard, screaming.
WILSON: Â Hey! If any of you are looking for any last-minute gift ideas for me, I have one. Iâ€™d like a penalty kill unit that has some at-the-very-least-vague idea of what theyâ€™re supposed to do. I want them lying in shooting lanes, swinging sticks in passing lanes, and mercilessly attacking the puck carrier. I want that unit now, so I donâ€™t have to keep reminding you what a cheap, lying, no-good, rotten, four-flushing, low-life, snake-licking, dirt-eating, inbred, overstuffed, ignorant, blood-sucking, dog-kissing, brainless, dickless, hopeless, heartless, fat-ass, bug-eyed, stiff-legged, spotty-lipped, worm-headed sack of monkey shit this unit is!
BURKE: This is supposed to convince me Ron needs an extension?
FLETCHER: How can a penalty kill be this bad, this long?
BURKE (sarcastic): We’re overthinking it?
Fletcher stares at him.
BURKE: No, really, is that it? Because we honestly have no idea.
FLETCHER: Blaming one man for something this complex can be misplaced â€“ and too easy of a solution for people outside who know absolutely nothing about what might really be going on.
Near the bench, GREG CRONIN and SCOTT GORDON meet by the Gatorade.
GORDON: Dude, seriously. Youâ€™ve got to get your PK in order.
CRONIN (baffled): I thought you was doinâ€™ it.
Wide-eyed, they suddenly come to the same realization.
CRONIN: Oh, Jesus…
GORDON: Well that explains that. We’d better get on this. Grab Colby.
CRONIN: He’s out.
GORDON: Ty Bozak?
CRONIN: At the other end, practicing his tap-ins.
GORDON: Go get…(hesitates)…actually, no. Leave him there.
Before Burke can intervene, Fletcher snaps his fingers…
AIR CANADA CENTRE – MLSE STAFF LOUNGE
Burke and Fletcher appear on an empty couch. DAVE NONIS, CLAUDE LOISELLE, and PAT PARK all sit in leather recliners, watching â€œELFâ€ on a widescreen LCD TV.
PAT PARK: We need some unique holiday gimmick for the media for this year.
NONIS: Is it wrong that the whole time Iâ€™m watching this movie I canâ€™t stop thinking about how hot Zooey Deschanel is in it?
PARK: Yes, it is. Now focus. We canâ€™t leave this room until we come up with a solution.
ZOOEY DESCHANEL: “The best way to spread Christmas cheer is singing loud for all to hear…”
PARK (suddenly realizing): Iâ€™ve got it.
AIR CANADA CENTRE â€“ ICE LEVEL
JUSTIN BIEBER poses with DION PHANEUF for a promotional video shoot. Burke and Ghost Fletcher watch.
BIEBER: Iâ€™m cold. And hungry. Is there any Coke? Iâ€™d settle for Gatorade, but only purple Gatorade…
PHANEUF skates over to PAT PARK.
PHANEUF (three second pause): I canâ€™t work with this guy. Heâ€™s a diva.
PAT PARK: Heâ€™s not a diva. Heâ€™s 17. Theyâ€™re all like that.
MIKE MILBURY appears behind Bieber, sliding a set of brass knuckles onto his hand…
MILBURY: You want me to…?
JAKE GARDINER comes screaming over, snowing Milbury when he stops.
GARDINER: Youâ€™ll have to go through me.
Milbury backs off. Bieber tugs at Gardinerâ€™s sleeve.
BIEBER: Thanks. Want an autograph?
GARDINER (indifferent): Sure. If you really want to.
GARDINER hands his stick to Bieber, and turns to PHANEUF.
GARDINER (silently, mouthing): Omigod omigiod omigiod omigiod…
PHANEUF (three second pause): Bet you 10 bucks the fans boo when they see it.
PARK: Why do you always pause three seconds before speaking?
PHANEUF (three second pause): I donâ€™t know.
BURKE: Why are you showing me this? Not my idea. Marketing gimmick.
FLETCHER: Maybe on the surface. Itâ€™s easy to get lost in the cheap commercial potential of the holiday.
Fletcher snaps his fingers again, they flash to…
LEAFS DRESSING ROOM, ACC
…where Bieber helps eight-year-old Jake Schafer with his skates.
FLETCHER: But if not for that gimmick, someone else would have missed out on a genuine Christmas miracle.
BURKE: So…people will boo or cheer for what is essentially the same thing… depending on their perspective of it?
FLETCHER snaps his fingers again â€“
NASSAU COUNTY COLISEUM â€“ DECEMBER 2016
Burke appears on the ice, mid game. NEW YORK ISLANDERS vs. The BOSTON BRUINS. Standing beside him: a shadowy spector of BRENDAN SHANAHAN.
BURKE: Ghost of Christmas Future?
SHANAHAN: Ding ding.
BURKE: What happened to Fletch?
SHANAHAN: Articleâ€™s getting kind of long. Didnâ€™t have time for a transition scene.
BURKE: What the hell is this?
SHANAHAN: Long Island of Misfit Players. Actual name. The former New York Islanders were so perpetually bad, eventually it led to complete refusal by draft picks or free agents to sign. Teams would send castoffs or terrible players here by trade.
BURKE: Mike Komisarek? How do I move that contract?
SHANAHAN: Ha. No way am I spoiling that one.
BURKE: This is horrible. Who the hell’s that?
Burke points toward the Misfit Playersâ€™ GOALTENDER â€“ a crude, almost cybernetic amalgamation of human body parts and hockey equipment.
SHANAHAN: Itâ€™s Rick DiPietro. Still has five years left on his contract. Injuries have made prosthetic replacements for most of his body a necessity. Heâ€™s assembled from the remains of deceased, former goaltenders who left their bodies to science.
BURKE: How many NHL-calibre goaltenders actually did that?
DIPIETRO slides left to right, snapping his femur and hitting the ice head-first. Instantly concussed.
SHANAHAN: Not many.
BURKE: Hold on here. I can buy the â€˜parts-of-us-have-died-metaphorically-for-the-purpose-of-a-comedic-blog-postâ€™ argument for the first two, but you are most definitely NOT a ghost.
SHANAHAN: I am in 2016, Brian. Head disciplinarian is the hardest job in hockey.
BURKE: What happened?
SHANAHAN: I started listening to all the complaints of inconsistency. I collapsed emotionally, mentally, and physically under the weight of my own critics. The position consumed me, and a terrible streak began where no man could withstand the pressure. Every subsequent NHL executive to hold the job failed. Discipline became totally random, meaningless, and irrelevant. The league went from being over-regulated to open season. Standards disappeared. Violent, terrifying nightmares were created…
THE ENTIRE NEW YORK TEAM retreats into their own zone, screaming. A BLISTERING ROAR comes from the Boston zone. JOHN TAVARES â€“ a neurotic, grey-haired, 26-year-old version of his current self, is the last man back.
JOHN TAVARES: Itâ€™s the Abominable!
BURKE (to Shanahan): Whatâ€™s that?
In the booth between the benches, Pierre McGuire points â€“ screaming.
MCGUIRE: A MONSTER!
MILAN LUCIC roars toward the Boston end. We hear the bones breaking…
BURKE: I donâ€™t understand what this has to do with me. Or the Leafs.
SHANAHAN snaps his fingers.
BURKE: Do you guys just snap your fingers for effect, or can you do the cutaway without-
NASSAU COUNTY COLISEUMÂ – UPPER BOX
Burke and Shanahan appear. Alone, but for one grey-haired man with his back to them â€“ the Misfit Playersâ€™ General Manager. Heâ€™s watching the game.
SHANAHAN: You tried to trade valuable young players to catapult the Leafs to quick playoff success, like your predecessors. You succumbed to the impatient, sometimes contradictory pressures of the Toronto market.
SHANAHAN: Plekanec and Semin.
BURKE doubles over, clutching his stomach as if heâ€™s about to be sick.
SHANAHAN: You were fired. After that, you had one option. The same option you always have. Taking a job to rebuild a team thatâ€™s in horrible, stagnant shape….
The Misfit Playersâ€™ General Manager turns â€“ Burke sees a sagging, aged, joyless version of HIS OWN FACE staring back!
He drops to his knees. The other two ghosts â€“ FERGUSON JR. and FLETCHER, appear.
FERGUSON JR: Do you see what weâ€™re trying to tell you?
BURKE: You mean thereâ€™s some common theme to all this? That actually has to do with Christmas?
FLETCHER: Well, it is supposedly a Christmas story, so it needs to end with a preachy moral.
BURKE: Iâ€™m not going back and reading this again. Letâ€™s have it.
SHANAHAN: Good times or bad times, critics will always be there. Prudent, skilled management has improved the Toronto Maple Leafs â€“ both the team and organization â€“ under your watch. But people still complain. Donâ€™t listen.
BURKE: I know that already.
SHANAHAN: Everyone has an opinion. But they might not have all the facts, and most of them certainly donâ€™t have the knowledge or experience to back them up. Youâ€™re good at this, and youâ€™ve done it before. Keep doing it the way youâ€™re doing it, and make decisions because you know theyâ€™re the right decisions â€“ don’t let your critics make them for you..
BURKE: So â€œstay the courseâ€ and â€œenjoy success, even when people try to not let youâ€ was what we basically just took near 2500 words to say?
SHANAHAN: Hey, itâ€™s a Christmas blog.
BURKE: So now I have some big redemptive scene giving Ron Wilson a contract extension?
The three ghosts exchange cautionary glances.
SHANAHAN: Maybe let him kill a few penalties, first.
FERGUSON: Yeah. A few playoff penalties.
BURKE: Fergie, I think it’s genius the way you rigged that sentence.
FERGUSON: Well, if you’re still crazy about hiring ex-GMs to fill out your front office-
BURKE: Let’s just stop there. Merry Christmas guys!