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This Puts Thrashers in a Sticky Situation

Times Staff Writer

When it comes to breaking sticks, few players are as accomplished as Atlanta Thrasher left wing Ilya Kovalchuk. The Russian can easily go through 100 to 200 in an NHL season.

And each one that Kovalchuk snaps causes Don Waddell, the Thrasher general manager, to count the cost.

Before graphite sticks came along, players used wooden sticks, usually made of ash and costing about $20 apiece. The composite models cost roughly $160 each.

Waddell can’t do anything about sticks that break, but, as he told the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, “the only thing I cringe at is when a player hands a $160 stick to a fan ... if it’s a stick they can still use, it’s just too valuable.”

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Atlanta’s stick budget soared from $75,000 in 2000 to $360,000 in 2004.

Trivia time: How many times in their 40-year history have the Atlanta Falcons had back-to-back winning seasons?

It’s you, no you: Monday’s Fiesta Bowl has left Laura Quinn in a quandary.

Her brother, Brady, is Notre Dame’s quarterback, so logically she should be rooting for him when the Irish take on Ohio State.

Trouble is, her boyfriend is the Buckeyes’ Lombardi Award-winning linebacker A.J. Hawk, who has been quoted as saying, “I try to take everybody’s head off.”

What’s a girl to do?

“I’ve been receiving a lot of flak for her dating him,” Brady Quinn said. “I got her a little Ohio State outfit for Christmas. But don’t get me wrong, my tree was still decorated in Notre Dame colors.”

A tie is like . . . : Elsewhere on the sister front, apprentice jockeys Kathy and Tracy O’Hara rode into racing history Thursday when they finished in a dead heat in the Shoreline Restaurant Handicap at Gosford racecourse in Australia.

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Kathy, 19, was leading aboard favorite Duke Bonga Longa, when Tracy, 20, made a late charge on Birubi Gold and caught her sister at the wire.

Last year, Kathy edged Tracy in a photo finish at another track.

“I’ve got that picture sitting at home,” Kathy told Australia’s Daily Telegraph. “But I’ll definitely have to get this one now.”

Feel the draft: “His season is one long reel of unreal jukes and moves,” Newsday’s Jon Heyman said of USC running back Reggie Bush before taking a shot at the New York Jets.

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“In a year of Jets disappointments,” Heyman wrote, “the biggest one will turn out to be their failure to be slightly worse so they could have grabbed Bush.”

Tall order: England’s Guardian newspaper, which delights in such things, calculates that the five-year, $75-million contract the Houston Rockets have given to Yao Ming means the 7-foot-6 Chinese star is being paid $833,333 per inch.

Trivia answer: None.

And finally: The hapless Detroit Lions are enduring their fifth consecutive season of double-digit losses, leading Steve Schrader of the Detroit Free Press to observe, “We learned long ago not to ask, ‘Can it get any worse than this?’ because that’s like daring the Lions to show it can.”

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