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NHL

Slapshots: Think before you speak

By Times staff writer
© St. Petersburg Times
published March 16, 2003

What was John Vanbiesbrouck thinking when he, as coach, general manager and part owner of the Ontario Hockey League's Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds, called one of his players the "N" word?

The fallout was swift. Vanbiesbrouck, a former standout goalie with the Rangers and Panthers, quit as coach and general manager and will sell his 25 percent share of the team.

The incident occurred March7 when Vanbiesbrouck spoke with Greyhound players Mike Amadeo and Jeff Doyle. Somewhere in the conversation Vanbiesbrouck made his remark about captain Trevor Daley.

Daley, who is African-American, immediately left the team "deeply disturbed by the hurtful comments," but has returned.

Vanbiesbrouck, who claims to be a born-again Christian, hasn't spoken much publicly but wrote on a Web site, "Words were said, stuff you say in the heat of battle. I went outside myself. In the heat of battle, you say things you regret."

The heat of battle? He was talking to two players outside the rink.

Think before you act

It was not a good few weeks for Capitals star Jaromir Jagr. The right wing is about a week away from playing because of a fractured wrist. Sports Illustrated revealed he lost $450,000 three years ago betting on the Internet, and the IRS is demanding payment of $3,270,209 in back taxes from 2001.

When asked about his gambling, Jagr said, "I made a mistake. It wasn't smart."

Five Questions

With Red Wings captain Steve Yzerman:

Q: How is your reconstructed knee?

A: I feel pretty good. After games I haven't had any difficulty. I've been a little tentative at times but with every game I spend more time thinking about the game than worrying about my knee.

Q: What is the toughest part of coming back after missing five months?

A: When you're really confident on the ice, you hold the puck till the last second to make the pass. Right now, I'm still forcing it a little bit. So if my timing has been off, it's been with the puck.

Q: Is it coming?

A: I have a long way to go.

Q: Will there be a work stoppage when the collective bargaining agreement expires in September 2004?

A: It will go to the deadline, but I would stop short (of saying) that there will be a work stoppage. Both sides have to decide what they want this league to be; if the owners want a 30-team league, and if the players, for that matter, want a 30-team league or are prepared to lose jobs and have fewer teams.

Q: Any thoughts of retirement?

A: I'm planning on playing another year, and then go from there.

Love to hate 'em

Tim Leiweke teed off on the Rangers and their free-spending ways. The Kings president opened by calling the signing of Bobby Holik to a five-year, $45-million deal "economic suicide and the stupidest thing I've seen."

Then he dropped the real bomb.

"The New York Rangers are spending $80-million and we're better than they are," Leiweke said. "If our fans are waiting for us to spend $80-million, they should move to New York and buy season tickets for the Rangers. They have a lot of overpaid, egotistical athletes and don't make the playoffs. Two things make me happy: the Kings winning and the Rangers losing."

Around the league

Bruins coach Robbie Ftorek has not been shy about criticizing defenseman Bryan Berard. "I don't know if it's a personal thing or what it is," Berard said. "It just seems like he's been on me and it definitely hasn't helped my confidence." ... Bill Guerin expects to be back for the playoffs. The Stars right wing is recovering from surgery for "compartment syndrome," which caused a buildup of blood that swelled his thigh to twice its normal size. ... A year ago today Brittanie Cecil, 13, was hit in the forehead by a puck shot by Columbus' Espen Knutsen. Cecil died two days later. ... After getting Rob Ray, and with Vaclav Varada, Chris Neil, Shane Hnidy and Zdeno Chara, the Senators might finally be tough enough to survive the playoffs.

Quotable

"They are trying to get me to go out and drink so they don't have to pay me." -- Chicago's Theo Fleury after being put on waivers

-- Compiled by staff writer Damian Cristodero using personal interviews and information from other news organizations.

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