apology unaccepted

Charlie Conacher leads the Leafs to ice at the Boston Garden in 1936, back when they still made the playoffs. (Photo: Boston Public Library, Leslie Jones Collection)

You can say you’re sorry, feel free. It is, after all, a hockey tradition. Whether or not the apology is accepted — that’s a whole other matter, as analyst and serial offender Mike Milbury learned last week.

He was blistering Sidney Crosby, as you’ll maybe remember, mocking his several concussions, besmirching his good name, calling down bodychecks on his person. Although, on second thought, maybe not. “In hindsight,” Milbury said the next day, “I realize what I said was inappropriate and wrong, and I want to apologize to the Penguins organization and their fans.”

Crosby’s agent wasn’t buying it. “Milbury went too far this time attacking the very sensitive issue of the concussion,” said Pat Brisson. “A simple apology isn’t accepted in this case. The real way to treat this disease is by either suspending or firing Milbury. Plain and simple.”

This week hockey’s big apology came from the Toronto Maple Leafs. The team bought full-page ads in the city’s newspapers on Tuesday to run Chairman Larry Tanenbaum’s letter to the fans. “We have fallen short of everyone’s expectations,” he wrote, “and for that we are sorry.”

Was the city buying it? Not so much. Funnelled through the radio call-ins and Twitterswell, that sound you heard through the day was the clatter of an apology being spurned. It’s eight years, now, of no playoffs, and 45 since the Stanley Cup took a ride down Yonge Street. When it’s that bad, as Rex Murphy put it last night on the CBC’s National, you don’t apologize, you go into exile.