Although President John Ziegler of the National Hockey League estimates that playing in a series next September in Leningrad and Moscow will cost the Washington Capitals and the Calgary Flames a little more than $1 million apiece, the teams seem ecstatic about being chosen.
Capital General Manager David Poile said at the news conference to announce the series: “This is a wonderful opportunity. I think it would have been foolish if we hadn’t taken advantage of this. There are certainly going to be many exciting experiences, both on and off the ice, that will make this a trip to remember and savor. This experience will be a shot in the arm to our entire organization. It’s something we are eagerly looking forward to.”
The teams also will train in Finland and Sweden before going to the Soviet Union for four games each against Soviet First Division teams.
Dave (Tiger) Williams, the all-time leader in penalty minutes--3,966--after a 13-year career with Toronto, Vancouver, Detroit, the Kings and Hartford, is having no second thoughts about how he played the game now that he has retired. As the debate rages on about whether the NHL needs fighting, the Detroit News asked Williams his opinion.
He had one, too: “Not once, never, did I have an owner come up to me disgruntled with the way I played. . . . I never look back, never say I wish I had never played like that. I was a 50-goal scorer in junior. I was cracky enough to take the challenge, year-in, year-out. Maybe I should have sat back and let somebody else do it. In Toronto in 1974, we had nobody else to do it. A lot of nights it was tough slugging.”
And furthermore, Williams said: “Bossy gets up at a banquet, he thinks he scored 50 goals because of Mike Bossy. Never gave any credit to (Clark) Gillies, who was 6-4, 225. . . . No credit to Billy Smith, who wielded his goalie stick like an ax. If Bossy thought fighting was so bad, why not say so when he was still playing?
“Fact remains, there are a lot of players, if they knew they had somebody behind them, they’d be better. But few guys come up to you after a game to say, ‘Thank you, you bailed me out.’ How does a guy come up to you and say, ‘Thanks. I’m chicken. Thanks for saving my butt.’ ”
According to Bob Johnson, former University of Wisconsin coach, former Calgary Flames coach and now executive director of the American Hockey Assn. of the United States, his amateur league went from 12,000 to 14,000 teams this year and is expected to go to 15,000 teams next year.
Johnson said: “They’re worried about hockey in Russia. They have only 180 indoor rinks and they don’t get kids. Registration in Canada is down. Ours is up. Hockey is making an upswing. I’d say hockey today is better in the U.S. than ever before. Even in Phoenix, it’s up. Why? Because they get Prime Ticket from Los Angeles and watch Wayne Gretzky.”
Thanks, Dad. Bobby Hull went to Maple Leaf Garden Monday to see his son, Brett, who scored a goal and three assists for the St. Louis Blues in a 7-5 victory over Toronto. But when it was over, Bobby could only marvel at how bad both teams were.
“Whoever made the last mistake won the game,” he said, apparently making one himself.
After recording a hat trick against the Kings Monday night, Guy Lafleur of the Rangers said of Gretzky: “I can’t really compete with him. He’s got about 900 more points than me. I know I don’t get the same ice time he does, but any time I’m out there, I want to prove to everybody I’m not over the hill.”
The 37-year-old Hall of Famer added: “My main goal is to finish the season so I can sign another contract for next year.”
A week earlier, Lafleur was quoted in Newsday as saying: “I think I’m living everybody’s dream. Every ex-hockey player, every old-timer--if they could, they wish they had this opportunity.”
Ron Duguay of the Kings made news and notes all around the National Hockey League when, after suffering a concussion in a game last month, he returned to the ice wearing a helmet for the first time. But by the time the nation’s hockey writers had noted that his decision to wear a helmet left just six active players without helmets--Washington’s Rod Langway, Chicago’s Doug Wilson, Toronto’s Al Secord and Brad Marsh, Winnipeg’s Randy Carlyle and Lafleur--Duguay had taken his hat off again.
He has explained that he wanted the protection until he was sure he was recovered from the concussion.
On playing in Los Angeles: “The players don’t even know who they’re playing against sometimes, but they always know they’re going to L.A.,” Quebec Coach Jean Perron said. “They have the white suit and pink tie packed.”
King owner Bruce McNall, in explaining that “there’s no such thing as too much of a good thing” after acquiring goalie Kelly Hrudey from the Islanders, said: “We have Wayne Gretzky, but if somebody asked me if we wanted Steve Yzerman, too, I’d say, ‘What would it take?’ ”
As Stanley Cup time draws closer, the Montreal Canadiens get tougher. The Canadiens had a record of 10-1-1 in their last 12 games before Wednesday night’s game at Edmonton. Goalie Patrick Roy is 20-0-2 at home. . . . Mike Vernon of the Calgary Flames is 14-0-1 in his last 15 games. . . . Mario Lemieux’s three assists, to go with goal No. 65, in a game Sunday night made him the third player in NHL history to have 100 or more assists in a season. The two others are Wayne Gretzky and Bobby Orr. . . . The Chicago Blackhawks got a scare last week when goalie Alain Chevrier, acquired from Winnipeg last month, went down with a knee injury. But the knee is just sprained and he is expected back in two weeks. . . . Tim Kerr, finally back with the Philadelphia Flyers after having five operations to correct damage in his left shoulder, had a hat trick and two assists in the Flyers’ 6-4 victory over the Rangers last Wednesday.