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The NHL : Rookies Should Get Their Initiations on the Ice, Not in Hazing Rituals

In separate but equally reasonable columns in the current edition of the Hockey News, Jeff Hale and Bob McKenzie call for an end to the hazing of rookies. Actually, McKenzie suggests that the initiations stay “within the bounds of decency.”

In some junior leagues and colleges, hazing has gone past bad haircuts and the singing of the school fight song to disgusting and degrading practices. It got so bad at Kent State that the university canceled its 30-game hockey season in response.

In the National Hockey League, hazing also sometimes goes beyond haircuts. That it exists at all in the NHL should be an embarrassment to professional athletes. But as long as it does exist in the NHL, the practice will, no doubt, live on in the lower levels.

Quebec Nordiques rookie Joe Sakic, who looks like a skinhead since his “initiation,” offers a ray of hope for the future. Sakic is on record as saying: “Next year, I’m not going to be doing anything.”

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That’s the only way it will stop--if the rookies of this season have the sense not to take it out on the rookies of next season.

Some coaches have policies against hazing, and some parents have insisted that anti-hazing clauses be written into their sons’ junior contracts.

Walter Gretzky told Hale that, on the advice of his son Wayne, he will demand a clause calling for a financial penalty against the team if his 16-year-old son, Brent, is initiated in any junior or college program.

Mario Lemieux is chasing Gretzky’s numbers. And not just the numbers of goals and assists Gretzky has scored over the years. Lemieux is taking an interest in the numbers in Gretzky’s contract.

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Lemieux, who is in the midst of contract negotiations with the Pittsburgh Penguins, talked with Gretzky about the negotiations Saturday night, when the Penguins played at the Forum. Lemieux said, “Gretz and I talked, and certainly I’ll talk to Wayne in the future.”

King owner Bruce McNall knew he was opening a Pandora’s box when he set Gretzky up with an 8-year contract worth an estimated $20 million. He knew that players such as Lemieux would figure they should be paid according to how their statistics compare with Gretzky’s. But the point, McNall said, was not the numbers of goals scored but the impact on the team, the image of the team, the number of people in the stands.

Lemieux, who broke Gretzky’s string of eight scoring titles last season and who is leading the league in scoring now, is considering playing out his contract with the Penguins and becoming a free agent. Then the Penguins would have the right of first refusal to match any other club’s offer. “I have a lot of options, believe me,” Lemieux said.

Lemieux’s current contract runs through the 1990-91 season and pays him an estimated base salary of $600,000 a year.

Add Penguins: Goalie Tom Barrasso, who was acquired Saturday in a deal with the Buffalo Sabres, is expected to start in goal for Pittsburgh at Toronto tonight. Barrasso was the fifth player taken in the 1983 amateur draft, the highest pick ever for a goalie. He started the season as Buffalo’s top goalie but lost that spot to Daren Puppa. In 10 games, Barrasso had a goals-against average of 4.95 and a record of 2-7-0.

At a news conference in Pittsburgh Monday, Barrasso said that he was happy for the opportunity to play for a team on the rise.

“I came to the NHL when I was 18 years old and acquired a reputation as being arrogant,” he said. “You make mistakes when you’re 18. The last 3 years of my life, I’ve worked very hard to try and dispel that. I hope we all enter this with an open mind. In 2 months’ time, if you want to call me arrogant or difficult to get along with, that’s fine by me. To do it today I think is unfair and a little judgmental.”

Detroit’s Steve Yzerman has 16 goals and 15 assists in 16 games, and his coach, Jacques Demers, says: “Steve is the best player in the National Hockey League. I know I would get some dispute, but every game he plays with consistency--scoring, killing penalties and playing defense.”

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Yzerman said: “I’ve been getting almost 30 minutes a game. When you get that kind of ice time, you have to do a lot more and be creative.”

NHL Notes

Inside Sports magazine ranked the NHL’s top 10 coaches, listing Edmonton’s Glen Sather No. 1. It also ranked the bottom 11, and on that list is the Kings’ Robbie Ftorek. . . . Dave Gagner, who had a hat trick in the Minnesota North Stars’ 5-4 victory over the Toronto Maple Leafs Monday night, nearly quit hockey when he was sent down to Kalamazoo after training camp. He said: “I asked them to re-evaluate quickly, because I wanted to make a decision about my career. I’ve got a year to go on my business degree at the University of Western Ontario, and it’s something I want to finish. I was prepared to do that this year.” But he was recalled. . . . Edmonton’s Esa Tikkanen, who scored the winning goal in overtime Sunday night, said, “We still miss Wayne Gretzky, but we have to forget him.” . . . King owner Bruce McNall also owns racehorses. The colors of his racing silks? Silver and black. McNall has a 3-year-old named Tretiak, for the Soviet goalie, and another named Rogatien, for King General Manager Rogie Vachon.


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