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The NHL / Tracy Dodds : Ballard, Maple Leaf Owner, Doesn’t Want Any Part of History

You’d think that Harold Ballard would be flattered that the Toronto Historical Board is considering declaring Maple Leaf Gardens a historic site, but he says he’d rather move the Maple Leafs to a suburb and build a new arena than have to ask the city for permission to do what he wants with his building.

“If the Commies at City Hall want to make decisions about my building, they’ll have to buy it for $100 million,” Ballard said.

Ballard recently had the 57-year-old building in downtown Toronto appraised as a site for condominiums and was told it was worth $100 million, according to the Toronto Sun.

If the arena is declared a historic site, it could not be renovated or demolished without the city’s approval. Ballard has until Jan. 19 to prepare arguments that the building is not historically significant.

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Robert Mikel, the historical board’s preservation officer, has already presented this argument: “This building has been a major focus of Toronto life for the last 50 years. Not only is it the home of the Maple Leafs, but Elvis Presley and the Beatles played there, and that’s what makes it such an amazing spot for the hundred million people who have gone through it.”

In the first 2 days after the board expressed interest in the building and Ballard threatened to move the team, stock in the building dropped $3.75 for a total loss, on paper, of about $11 million.

Ballard has long opposed letting any Soviet team play in his building, and so far, he has been able to keep them out.

But Alan Eagleson, executive director of the NHL Players Assn., says that Ballard will have no choice but to allow the Maple Leafs to play a Soviet team next year, because a committee of players and owners has approved a Soviet tour that will visit every NHL city.

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Ballard says he’ll sue the NHL and the NHLPA before he lets the Soviets in.

According to Eagleson, the Soviets have agreed to send four teams to North America for series with all 21 NHL teams next season.

The recent tour of two Soviet teams netted about $600,000 for the Soviets and $2 million for the NHL players’ pension fund.

The “spirit of the hallway” that came over Boston Bruins Coach Terry O’Reilly on Dec. 29 and caused him to pick a fight with New Jersey defenseman Jim Korn has resulted in suspensions for both. Brian O’Neill, NFL executive vice president, suspended O’Reilly for 4 games and Korn for 3.

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Korn learned of the suspension just before the Devils’ game Monday, and he went out and scored 2 goals to help beat the New York Rangers. His suspension is to start next week.

The age-old debate about whether big league competition is good for the little guys is reaching a new level in Quebec. Alex Legare, president of the famous Quebec International peewee hockey tournament, is fighting the efforts of a government commission formed to end what the chairman of the commission, Robert Therien, calls high-pressure games that put too much stress on children.

Legare told the Globe and Mail: “This was the tournament where Wayne Gretzky first came to be known internationally--and Mario Lemieux and Guy Lafleur . . .

“It is good to excel. Competition is part of life. In everything, you have to compete. Don’t swimmers, to get to the Olympics, have to start competing from age 5 or 6?

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“If Quebec were to accept this (recreational hockey) project, Quebecers would be playing serious hockey only from the age of 12. Many people are against that.

“The only people who support it are those whose kids aren’t very good or who weren’t very good players themselves.”

Gretzky played in the tournament at the Colisee in 1974, when he was 12. He played for Toronto against a team from Richardson, Tex., and Toronto won, 24-0. Gretzky had 13 points on 8 goals and 5 assists.

The tournament, for 11- and 12-year-olds, has an annual budget of $225,000.

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Peter Nedved visited Calgary last month with his midget hockey team, which had made the trip from Litvinov in Czechoslovakia, but when his team returned home, he stayed.

Nedved defected and turned himself over to the Royal Canadian Mounted Police.

Now, that may make sense for players who have spots waiting for them in the NHL, but Peter has just turned 17. He won’t even be eligible for the NHL draft until 1990.

And he won’t be able to play amateur hockey in Canada, because Canada and Czechoslovakia are members of the International Ice Hockey Federation, which has a rule saying that a player who leaves his own country without permission must establish permanent residence in his new country for 18 months before he can play.

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So, he’s just waiting while hockey officials, government officials and even his parents try to decide what to do with him.

The Canadian Press reports that Michael Gobuty, former president of the Winnipeg Jets, says there’s a 14-team hockey league in the making--with 4 Canadian teams, 4 U.S. teams and 6 European teams--that plans to challenge the NHL.

Hockey Notes

Just before Maple Leaf Coach John Brophy was fired, former Minnesota North Stars Coach Glen Sonmor told him: “If Wayne Gretzky had fallen in love with a Toronto girl, you’d be a much better coach.” . . . The Detroit Red Wings finally ended Montreal’s 9-game winning streak, beating the Canadiens Monday night, 3-2. The Canadiens had not lost a game since Dec. 15. In the 20 games before Wednesday’s against New Jersey, Montreal had a record of 15-2-3.

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While in New Jersey, Vyatcheslav Fetisov of the Soviet Central Red Army team walked into the Devils’ dressing room and introduced himself to the players he hopes will someday be his teammates. . . . After the Pittsburgh Penguins beat the Red Army team, Pittsburgh goalie Wendell Young exchanged sticks with Soviet goalie Sergei Mylnikov. Young said: “I don’t mind trading as long as they don’t go to Afghanistan and beat somebody over the head with it.”

Glenn Hall, who spent the majority of his 16 years in the NHL playing in Chicago Stadium, commented on the noise level there: “I could block out all the noise, except for the one guy who kept yelling, ‘Cold beer! Get your cold beer!” . . . Mike Modano, the top pick in the 1988 NHL draft, ended his holdout last Friday and signed a 4-year contract with the North Stars that, with incentives, could make him a millionaire. He made his debut against Dynamo Riga and played well.


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