The NHL / Chris Baker : Oilers Suspicious of Tonelli Trade

Is there a conspiracy against the Edmonton Oilers?

Glen Sather, Edmonton’s president, co-coach and general manager, apparently believes that some of the other 20 teams in the National Hockey League are cooperating in an effort to sideline the two-time defending Stanley Cup champions.

Sather said that the New York Islanders traded John Tonelli to the Calgary Flames last week because they were trying to help the Flames beat the Oilers in the playoffs.

“Tonelli going to the Flames is a plot against us,” Sather told an Edmonton newspaper.

“It’s a sign of the camaraderie that exists between Cliff Fletcher (the Flames’ general manager) and Bill Torrey (the Islanders’ general manager). Torrey set it up so Calgary could beat us. But remember, we beat another team with Tonelli on it.”

The Oilers lost to the Islanders in the 1983 Stanley Cup final, but they came back to beat the Islanders in the 1984 final.


Said Denis Potvin of the Islanders: “I think a lot of people want to see Edmonton go down. I’m sure the insurance is going to put Calgary in a position to pose an even stronger threat to the Oilers.”

The Winnipeg Jets have posted a 4-1 record since General Manager John Ferguson replaced Coach Barry Long and took over behind the bench.

Long became the Jets’ assistant general manager. He now scouts other teams and also looks at college players in preparation for the draft.

Ferguson looks like a caged wolf during games, stalking behind the bench. He constantly shouts encouragement to his players, screams at the officials and keeps three towels close by to wipe the sweat off his brow.

Long rarely got excited while he was coaching, leaving that to assistant coach Rick Bowness. Bowness reportedly has a shot at the head coaching job next season because Ferguson said he doesn’t want to become a career coach.

Randy Smith, a veteran sportswriter for the Manchester, Conn., Journal-Inquirer, has filed harassment charges against Coach Jack Evans of the Hartford Whalers.

The charges stem from a scuffle between the coach and sportswriter after a recent game in Buffalo.

Evans refused to speak to Smith after the Whalers had beaten the Buffalo Sabres March 7.

After talking to the players, Smith went into a small room where Evans was and, according to Smith, a confrontation took place. According to Smith, Evans grabbed him by his sport coat and shoved him against a wall.

Evans was allegedly shouting obscenities at Smith and threatening to hit the writer. They were separated by Whaler trainers.

Evans reportedly was angry at Smith because Smith had called him a liar in print. Smith had reported earlier this season that Evans had called a special practice in Winnipeg the morning after players had been out drinking all night. Evans denied that, saying that it had been a routine practice.

Smith said he waited for an apology from the Whalers before filing an official complaint. The Whalers conducted their own investigation into the matter and issued a statement last week that basically absolved Evans.

Smith said that an informal hearing will be held in Buffalo March 31, during which officials will attempt to resolve the matter.

Center Doug Smith, traded from the Kings to Buffalo Jan. 30, returned to the Forum last Saturday when Buffalo lost to the Kings, 5-3.

Smith said he has had no trouble adjusting to Buffalo.

“Buffalo is beautiful,” he said. “It’s a real hockey town. The fans are really behind you. Everything is going well for me. I couldn’t ask for anything more from Scotty Bowman (Buffalo’s coach and general manager).”

Smith said he has traded houses with Sean McKenna. Buffalo traded McKenna to the Kings along with defenseman Larry Playfair for Smith and defenseman Brian Engblom. Smith is living in McKenna’s house, and McKenna is living in Smith’s house in El Segundo.