St. Petersburg Times
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Lightning waits out Svitov military saga

By DAMIAN CRISTODERO, Times Staff Writer
© St. Petersburg Times
published April 21, 2002

It may one day go down in Lightning history with infamous episodes such as the Chris Gratton smudged fax and Daren Puppa's balky back/hip/groin.

But for now, the saga of Alexander Svitov is simply maddening and frustrating for the team.

It appears Tampa Bay's top pick in the 2001 draft, No. 3 overall, will be in the Russian military for either two or five years. Tampa Bay still hopes to get him into next season's camp. But Svitov's agent, Jay Grossman, said last week the circumstances are so uncertain, there is no way to tell when his client will get to North America.

"I wouldn't put any time frame on it," he said. "It's not particularly clear."

What is clear is even though Svitov signed a three-year, $3.6-million contract with the Lightning, he is obligated to finish a military hitch. Under the International Ice Hockey Federation's agreement with the NHL on player transfers from Europe, the one thing that supersedes an NHL contract is military service.

The question is, did Svitov, a 6-foot-3, 200-pound center who some speculate could play in the NHL right now, enlist for two or five years?

"There's no black and white in Russia," Grossman said. "He's a soldier in the military."

Asked if anything is being done to get Svitov -- Lightning forward Nikita Alexeev and former Lightning defenseman Andrei Zyuzin said they paid to avoid the service -- Grossman only said, "Everything is status quo.

"It's been really frustrating. He understands the situation he is in."

Said general manager Jay Feaster: "At this point we will continue to follow the lead of Jay Grossman on the Svitov matter. In terms of making our plans for next year's roster we intend to remain flexible for as long as possible where he is concerned."

MOVIE MAGIC: The Thrashers have made a recruiting video to show free agents over the summer. Atlanta is expected to add $8-million to $10-million to its payroll next season.

"As far as I know, it's something nobody's done," general manager Don Wadell said. "We want to show what we have to offer free agents. We'll showcase our young players, the facilities, our company. There's probably people out there who don't know we're owned by the same people who own the Braves."

JUST A COINCIDENCE: When assistant Roger Neilson took over behind the bench for Ottawa's final two home games, he joked that former Maple Leafs owner Harold Ballard, for whom Neilson coached, would "probably be rolling over in his grave if he knew I'd be around for 1,000 games."

As it turned out, Neilson's 999th game, a 4-0 victory over Boston on April 11, came on the 12th anniversary of Ballard's death.

"Holy smokes," Neilson said, "he is rolling over."

PEOPLE ARE LOONIE: Canucks fan John Agelakis rented the ice at Vancouver's GM Place on March 25 and melted a Canadian dollar coin, known as a loonie, under the Molson beer logo near one of the blue lines. The Canucks won their next six at home and went 8-0-1 before the story became public and the team had the coin pulled.

"They should at least give me the loonie back," Agelakis said. "Or they should give me interest on it. Eight wins and a buck a win, that's eight bucks."

Agelakis certainly was inspired by Trent Evans, a Canadian icemaker at the Olympics. Evans melted a loonie at center ice of the E-Center, where the Canadian men and women won gold.

ODDS AND ENDS: A ninth Stanley Cup for Red Wings coach Scotty Bowman would break the record of Montreal's Toe Blake and tie the record for championships by a coach in the four major sports. Red Auerbach won nine NBA titles with the Celtics. ... There are 6,800 tickets remaining for playoff games Monday and Wednesday in Ottawa, which is last in ticket sales among the 16 playoff teams.

-- Information from other news organizations was used in this report.

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