Webster Gives Tantrum a New Definition
As temper tantrums go, Tom Webster’s blowup Thursday night did not quite have the volcanic ba-boom of the one a few seasons ago by that hockey coach from New Jersey who screamed at a porky referee: “Have another doughnut! Have another doughnut!”
But it wasn’t bad.
Second period, Kings vs. Calgary: Brad Jones and the Flames’ Jamie Macoun hug and tug and mix it up in a corner of the Forum like a couple of lambada dancers. Jones bites the ice. No penalty is called, however, so play continues.
Webster decides that he has seen enough.
“It was the way the whole game was going,” the King kingpin said Friday. “There were several, uh . . . miscalls.”
Webster looks beside him on the bench for the nearest handy utensil.
Ah, a hockey stick. Of course.
“I think it was Rob Blake’s,” Webster said. “He said: ‘If I’d known what you were going to do with it, I’d never have let you have it.’ ”
Raring back like Steve Reeves in a Hercules movie, the bespectacled Webster turns into a spear thrower and uncorks one in the general direction of Ron Hoggarth, referee.
(Kids: Don’t try this at home.)
Luckily for the coach, he does not turn Hoggarth into a ref-kebab.
Referee Hoggarth, thankful not to be impaled, kindly reminds Coach Webster that hockey sticks are meant for puck-pushing, not armed combat, and that if he had an urge to see somebody attacked with hockey equipment, he would have gone to one of those “Friday the 13th” movies starring the sleaze-ball in the goalie mask.
Furthermore, he invites Coach Webster to spend the remainder of the game someplace other than the King bench, ejecting him from the premises.
About all this accomplished was to spare Tom the ordeal of watching the Kings fail to win for the eighth game in a row. Yes, these are the same Kings who a fortnight ago owned a record of 15-4-1 and frequently outdrew the Lakers at the Forum.
They were 16-9-5 going into Saturday night’s game against the Edmonton Oilers, but Webster took heart.
“Look at the Oilers,” he said. “They lost just one player, (Mark) Messier, and lost something like nine in a row.”
The Kings lost Tomas Sandstrom, just when they were feeling all peacock-puffy proud about the Bernie Nicholls trade, on Nov. 29 with a back injury. Sandstrom had only recently begun showing the West Coast what he could do. Now he is out until at least after Christmas.
The Kings also lost Luc Robitaille for four games, because Lucky was unlucky enough to get caught pretending that his hockey stick was a 6-iron and Edmonton’s Craig Simpson’s head was a golf ball.
(For some weird reason, the Kings seem to think their hockey sticks have more uses than a set of Ginsu steak knives.)
The suspension robbed Webster of Robitaille, but he went along with it, saying: “The league warned us it would be strict on stick fouls. We were thankful Lucky didn’t get more (of a suspension).”
Anyhow, Robitaille served his four-game sentence, just in time to replace Sandstrom as the partner of Wayne Gretzky and Tony Granato on Los Angeles’ finest line.
Webster was patchwork-quilting all over the place. Marty McSorley got sore ribs. Brian Benning got back spasms. Tim Watters took time off to rest his ribs. Tom Laidlaw was laid up with a bad back. Bob Halkidis, recuperating from shoulder surgery, had to hustle back.
And, little by little, the Kings got out of sync.
“Our power play just hasn’t been clicking,” Webster said. “At times we should be shooting, we’re not. We’re being too cute and over-passing. We’re not getting those kinds of grinding-it-out goals we were getting before.
“And it’s just one of those things, but we haven’t been getting many breaks, either. Twice we’ve knocked goals in off our own skates. That’ll rattle you in a hurry.”
No wonder Webster tried to turn that poor referee into a pierced ear.
On the verge of having that dreamy season of every King fan’s fantasy, the team suddenly reverted to its old ways. When the players depressed Webster in their second game of the season after impressing him on opening night, he gave them a good tongue-slashing. He let them know in no uncertain terms that he won’t put up with second-rate effort.
Now, while trying to end this endless winless streak Saturday, Webster was inclined to be more forgiving.
“We’ve had a lot of line juggling, and when that happens, you tend to lose the edge you once had,” he said. “Still, we’ve been able to get some ties, and ties shouldn’t necessarily be treated like losses. You still get a point. You take another step forward. A tie is not exactly a tragedy.
“What I would really like to see is this hockey club rally around one another. We can’t wait for breaks. We have to create our own breaks.”
Valuable suggestions all.
First and foremost, they should stop turning their sticks into “Lethal Weapon III.” There must be more constructive ways of venting anger. When Bo Jackson plays hockey, he just breaks his stick over his helmet.