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League: This time, we'll stick by the rules

By TOM JONES, Times Staff Writer
Published September 25, 2005

Lightning coach John Tortorella hit on something the other day when talking about the new obstruction rules.

He commented that the media and the fans need to be patient about all the penalties in the preseason. He said the media should not write or go on TV and radio complaining about the conga line to the penalty box as the league works through the awkward stage of cracking players on the knuckles to break old bad habits.

Tortorella had a point, but coaches often are the ones complaining the loudest when the league tries to curb obstruction penalties. Tortorella isn't necessarily guilty, but many of his counterparts are. When the NHL tried and failed a few years ago to enforce existing rules, coaches and general managers complained so often that the league gave up.

When someone had a problem, he called NHL executive vice president Colin Campbell to complain. Campbell used to listen patiently. Not anymore.

"It's going to be like: "Enough is enough. Shut up,' " Campbell told the Star-Tribune of Minneapolis. "We've been directed to do this by everybody, and a lot of those everybodys are the same people who have complained before when too many penalties were called.

"But this time, because of the lockout, we had the whole year to sink our teeth into it. We discussed it with players, coaches, refs and managers, and this was (the edict) to come down."

THRASHING ABOUT: The Thrashers still haven't signed star forward Ilya Kovalchuk.

Right now, the Thrashers are offering a little more than what Columbus' Rick Nash received - about $5.7-million a year over five years.

But Kovalchuk wants $7-million a year.

He thinks he is comparable to the Lightning's Vinny Lecavalier ($6.875-million a year) and Boston's Joe Thornton ($6.33-million). He might have a point. Kovalchuk tied Nash for the league lead in goals in 2003-04, but had 30 more assists. He had 21 more points than Lecavalier and 23 more goals than Thornton.

It's difficult to believe, however, that a deal won't get done before the season to lock Kovalchuk up for at least four years.

BACK TO THE FUTURE: Buffalo's Tim Connolly is playing for the first time in 21/2 years. He missed the 2003-04 season with concussion problems and, like everyone else, missed last season because of the lockout.

At 24, he's still young, and the new rules limiting obstruction should be an advantage for the 6-foot center.

"I played four years in this league, and three out of those four years I was in the top three on my team in scoring, including the Sabres," Connolly told the Buffalo News. "I've only played in this league as an 18-, 19-, 20- and 21-year-old. So I definitely think that the best is yet to come."

SHOOTOUT, SCHMOOTOUT: Don't count Wild coach Jacques Lemaire as a fan of the new shootout to solve ties.

"I just don't like it," Lemaire said. "I don't think it's fair. To me, it's a tie game. We can't determine a winner. If we win, everything's fine, but it's not fair for the other team. They played as hard as we did. There's one loser at the end and it's in a shootout."

Lemaire wasn't done: "The fans enjoyed the game because the game was exciting. The game was fast. They're happy. We tied the game. So if they go home with a loss, they feel that we lost the game."

PUCKER UP: Ever see those "Kiss-Cams" at sporting events? The in-house camera focuses on two people until they kiss. Last week, as a joke, Toronto's Air Canada Centre put the camera on Ottawa's Mike Fisher and Daniel Alfredsson. So what happened? Fisher leaned over and kissed Alfredsson on the helmet.

"I'm happy it was Fisher," Alfredsson said, "because he's pretty good-looking."

ICE CHIPS: Say it ain't so! Phoenix's Mike Ricci, known for his long locks, cut his hair. He did it because he played old-time hockey player Elmer Lach in a movie about Maurice Richard filmed over the summer. ... If Steve Thomas makes the Maple Leafs' roster, he becomes the second-oldest Leaf in team history at 42 years and three months, second to 45-year-old Johnny Bower. ... Final thought: Good thing for the Hall of Fame that Lightning captain Dave Andreychuk didn't retire. The Hall of Fame allows only four inductees a year. Ron Francis, Scott Stevens, Al MacInnis and Mark Messier retired this summer. If Andreychuk had quit, too, who would've been left out of the Class of 2009?

Information from other news organizations was used in the report.

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