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Avalanche Says That Crawford Quit Job

<i> From Staff and Wire Reports</i>

Two years ago, Marc Crawford led the Colorado Avalanche to the Stanley Cup. Now the coach is out of a job--and it’s unclear if he quit or was fired.

The team said Wednesday he turned down a new contract so he could look for another club to coach.

Crawford has a year left on his contract, and it is uncertain how soon he can move on. Asked if a team would be tampering if it contacted Crawford, General Manager Pierre Lacroix said, “no doubt.”

Crawford led the Avalanche to the best record in its division but was criticized after a first-round playoff loss to the Edmonton Oilers.

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The Avalanche said Crawford was offered another year in addition to the year he had left on his contract. Lacroix said Crawford refused the offer and told the team he wanted to pursue other coaching opportunities.

Asked if that meant Crawford quit or was fired, Lacroix said: “That’s a legal matter we have to address.” When pressed about whether Crawford quit, Lacroix said “that’s the way I perceive it.” He said he was “stunned” at the development.

Lacroix said he did not know how long it would take to find a successor.

“You can’t replace Marc Crawford,” he said. “Marc has his own style and great ability. You can’t replace him.”

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Crawford was not immediately available for comment.

He is the second NHL coach with a Stanley Cup title to lose his job this month. Jacques Lemaire, who led New Jersey to the championship in 1995, quit as coach of the Devils on May 8.

According to Lacroix, Crawford said: “Stop the offers. Four years, five years--it’s not about the money.”

Crawford, 37, is considered one of hockey’s brightest young coaches. He has a 165-88-41 coaching record in four NHL seasons plus a 31-21 mark in the playoffs.

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Right wing Greg Phillips, who finished fourth in Western Hockey League playoff scoring with 22 points in 18 games, has agreed to a three-year contract with the Kings. Terms of the deal were not announced.

Phillips, a 6-foot-2, 203-pounder, was the Kings’ third choice in the 1996 entry draft. In 234 games at the junior level, Phillips had 172 points and 455 penalty minutes.

After being traded from Saskatoon to Brandon midway through the season, the 20-year-old Phillips helped lead the Wheat Kings to the WHL’s finals, where they lost to Portland 4-0. During the regular season, Phillips had 82 points and 165 penalty minutes in 69 games with Saskatoon and Brandon.

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The Mighty Ducks have picked up the option on right winger Jeff Nielsen’s contract.

Nielsen, 26, appeared in 32 games with Anaheim, scoring nine points.

He sat out seven weeks because of a broken left leg.

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Haley Wickenheiser, a 19-year-old forward for Team Canada in the Nagano Olympics, was invited by the Philadelphia Flyers to attend the team’s prospects camp in July.

The Flyers and Wickenheiser stress that she won’t be fighting for a spot on the roster, only to improve her game.

Bob Clarke, the team president and general manager, has said that the 5-foot-9, 170-pound Wickenheiser “kind of plays like John LeClair, only I think she’s a little meaner.”

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Marian Hossa, the Ottawa Senators’ top pick in the 1997 NHL draft, will undergo surgery for torn ligaments in his left knee.


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