Backstory: About 6 months ago I moved to the great city of Madison, Wisconsin. While I was dismayed to leave Toronto, my beloved Maple Leafs, and my motherland behind, I was happy to have a Maple Leaf-Wisconsin connection, and to be heading to the birthplace of Phil Kessel.
Because of the availability heuristic, I've also noticed what I think is a pattern in recent acquisitions made by Brian Burke. While others have argued that Burke has been preferentially acquiring Americans (something I'm sure is a myth), it seems like in fact his goal is to acquire every NHL player with a connection to Wisconsin. See the full details after the jump:
Phil was the first of Burke's Wisconsin acquisitions. Both Phil Kessel and his brother, Blake Kessel, grew up in Madison, the capitol of Wisconsin. There must be something they put in the water you drink out of the local bubblers, since Phil is now an elite 30-goal scorer, and Blake is on his way to becoming an NHL regular. It's not surprising, really, since the city is surrounded by water, and quite cold in the winter, leading to what looks like some mighty nice shinny games, all within view of the state capitol building (seen above).
Here's a picture of 9 year old Phil on the
right left, playing for the Madison Capitols.
Surprisingly, Phil spurned an opportunity to play college hockey at home for the University of Wisconsin Badgers, where we find the next member of our Sconnie connection.
Jake Gardiner was drafted by the Anaheim Ducks, and picked up by the Leafs in the Beauchamin trade. Gardiner was the surprise of the pre-season, taking a roster spot away from Keith Aulie, and scoring a bunch of points in the process. Where did Gardiner hone his offensive skills? The University of Wisconsin, of course.
If anyone caught last week's Badgers - Corn-Huskers game on tv, you'll know that people in this city take college sports pretty seriously. Hockey is no exception. The number and type of fans he's used to playing in front of here in Madison will far exceed anything he's likely to encounter in Toronto, unless by some miracle he's here long enough to help the Leafs win a cup. Oh, and the Outdoor Classic? He's been there and done that, playing in front of 55,000+ people at the Camp Randall Outdoor Classic in February.
Sadly, Gardiner quit school to go pro just as I arrived in Wisconsin, so I never had a chance to see him play here.
Although Cody is a Canadian, he spent a few years in Wisconsin playing for the Milwaukee Admirals.
The admirals are the AHL affiliate of the Nashville Predators. Cody spent just over two seasons in Milwaukee, scoring 105 points, including 10 in the playoffs. While this was probably not enough time to call Franson a true Sconnie, this is when he no doubt discovered Wisconsin's answer to poutine: deep-fried cheese curds.
The most recent addition to the Leafs roster is also the latest Sconnie acquisition. That's right, Mr. 75% faceoff wins was born in Milwaukee.
Engel, who plays for the Marlies, was born in Rice Lake, WI, and like Gardiner, also played for the UW Badgers. I don't know anything about him so this may not in fact be a picture of David:
Why does any of this matter? Frankly it doesn't. I don't care if we get our players from Ubeki-beki-beki-beki-stan-stan. But it's a curious trivia fact that in the last three trades Burke has made, and in 4 of the trades he has made since coming here, one of the players coming back to the Leafs has a connection to Wisconsin. Is it a coincidence? Or is there someone in the organization with ties to Wisconsin? I smell a conspiracy. And clearly, the mittenstringers are too preoccupied with hating on Leafs fans to handle the hard-hitting questions like this.
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