THE NHL / HELENE ELLIOTT : Gilmour: Weak Ankle, Strong Heart

Toronto defenseman Bob Baun's courage in scoring the game-winning goal on a broken ankle in the sixth game of the 1964 Stanley Cup finals is part of hockey lore.

Maple Leaf center Doug Gilmour is adding a chapter this spring, playing magnificently despite a painfully swollen right ankle.

Before he can stuff his sore foot into his skate boot, Gilmour must ice it. Then he undergoes therapy. Then he winces. A lot. But he unfailingly plays an aggressive two-way game, usually playing double shifts.

Despite the injury--a tendon damaged when he tangled with Gary Suter in Game 5 of the Leafs' first-round series against Chicago--Gilmour plays on the power play, kills penalties and takes key faceoffs. Oh, and he leads playoff scorers with 19 points.

His one-goal, four-assist performance Sunday in Toronto's 8-3 rout of the San Jose Sharks was timely. Had the Maple Leafs lost, they would have faced a 3-1 series deficit tonight before a hostile San Jose crowd. Instead, Gilmour, who has two goals and 11 points in the series, brought them even at 2-2.

"I'm never surprised by anything Doug Gilmour does," Shark Coach Kevin Constantine said. "He's one of my favorite players. He'd be in my top two or three players in the league. He's kind of a small guy who does big things."

Said Toronto winger Mark Osborne: "He's truly a remarkable competitor, and we feed off that as a team. A lot of great players play with their hearts, and that takes over when they're hurt. That's what Dougie is doing."

Gilmour insists that his valor doesn't come close to matching Baun's. But he acknowledged he's in near-constant pain and can't push off with his right foot.

"Accelerating from 10 feet is a problem and that's my biggest thing," he said. "If I'm in the corner, I want to get out quickly and get a jump. . . . I have good days and some that aren't so good. Sure, you're going to have a little bit of pain, but you've got to suck it up. This time of year, you've got to work hard."


When Coach Scotty Bowman was locked into a room next to the Detroit Red Wings' locker room before a playoff game, none of his players rescued him. A team employee told Detroit reporters he heard players say, "No, keep him there," when Bowman yelled to be released.

If Sergei Fedorov hadn't been with him, the joke went, Bowman might still be imprisoned. An arena worker freed them.

In truth, Bowman might as well have stayed in there because--sacrilegious as it sounds--he was outcoached by Constantine.

Bowman made his first mistake before the playoffs. Against the advice of General Manager Bryan Murray, Bowman played his usual lineup in the meaningless regular-season finale.

He told the team, "This is our most important game of the season. If we win, we'll have home-ice advantage against Pittsburgh in the Stanley Cup finals."

The game was important, all right, but for the wrong reasons. Fedorov aggravated a head injury, Steve Yzerman sprained his knee and Keith Primeau injured his left shoulder. Those three contributed little in the Red Wings' seven-game loss.

Bowman also chose to sit on a 3-1 lead in Game 4, a decision criticized by his players. Loudest was Paul Coffey, who said the offense-heavy Red Wings should have kept attacking the Sharks. Playing a style they neither liked nor excelled at, they lost. Bowman also tried to instill a defensive style in Game 7 and lost that, too.

If anyone takes the fall, Murray will go before Bowman. Everything is on hold until owner Mike Ilitch decides whether to sell the team in order to recoup some of the money he's losing as owner of the Tigers.


The New York Rangers twice tried to trade Alexei Kovalev, to Quebec two years ago in a package for the rights to Eric Lindros, and again this season, when they thought Vancouver's Petr Nedved could fill a void at second-line center.

It's the best deal they never made.

Instead, they moved Kovalev from right wing to the middle, where he thrived. He's a good puck handler and can quickly shift gears to jump ahead of defenders and draw penalties.

Before he was moved back to right wing in Monday's series-clinching victory over Washington, Kovalev and linemates Steve Larmer and Stephane Matteau had collected 25 points, including 11 by Kovalev. That's quite an improvement from last season, when he wasn't deemed good enough to play for the Rangers' American Hockey League farm team in its last playoff game.

"He had a very patient teacher," said Ranger Coach Mike Keenan, who at least had the grace to laugh at himself.


The recent statement by Gunther Sabetzki, president of the International Ice Hockey Federation, that he won't sanction an Olympic tournament with "dream teams" of NHL players, is nothing but a power play.

Sabetzki had said he would leave office after his current term, but U.S. hockey officials believe he wants to run again. Withholding approval of the dream-team format gives him a bargaining chip for the next election.

IIHF rules allow professionals to play in the Games, so there's little Sabetzki can do to prevent the change if the various national hockey federations approve--and if NHL owners agree to shut down the league so players can participate.

He can only cause trouble over the proposed two-tier setup, which calls for six European teams to compete for two Olympic berths. Canada, the United States, Sweden, Finland, Russia and the Czech Republic would qualify automatically.


The Comsat Corp., which owns the NBA's Denver Nuggets, is looking into buying an NHL team and moving it to Denver. Both teams would play in a new arena to be built in Denver's Platte Valley. The company is targeting the Whalers, who almost left Hartford once before. . . . The post-mortem has begun in Pittsburgh, where as many as 10 players and Coach Ed Johnston might be gone. "Those hunger pangs that have existed in the past didn't exist this year," Penguin President Howard Baldwin said. "As an organization, we have a mandate to find out why."

Vancouver Canuck Coach Pat Quinn says the Dallas Stars are taking cheap shots at Pavel Bure. Maybe so. But that doesn't excuse Bure's vicious elbowing of Shane Churla, which drew a laughable $500 fine. . . . The Stars are disappointed with defenseman Derian Hatcher's passive play. . . . San Jose's Igor Larionov, Johan Garpenlov and Sergei Makarov collected 21 points in seven games in the first round, but they've been held to four points in four games by the Maple Leafs. Peter Zezel's defensive play is the main reason.

After the New Jersey Devils had drawn crowds of 13,878 and 17,205 to the 19,040-seat Meadowlands Arena for their first two games against Boston, Bernie Nicholls suggested the Devils would never succeed there and ought to move. It's too bad fans there don't appreciate Coach Jacques Lemaire's efforts.

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