NHL president's plan for '94 Olympics may end up little more than a dream U.S. likes idea, Canada doesn't

November 01, 1992|By Knight-Ridder News Service

Support seems to be waning for NHL president Gil Stein's Olympic "Dream Tourney" proposal.

Stein met with the Board of Governors Tuesday and afterward acknowledged that some governors were skeptical. He noted that "many loose ends" must be tied up.

At Tuesday's meeting, an eight-member committee was appointed that will research the issue for a vote of the board in December. At that time, the league will do one of three things:

* It will decide to shut down for three weeks so players can participate in the 1994 Winter Olympics in Lillehammer, Norway.

* It will scuttle the whole idea.

* It will decide to participate in the Olympics, but keep the league open somehow with a drastically reduced schedule.

It is unclear how the sides are lined up within the governors' group. In the media, however, it seems fair to say that U.S. reaction to the idea has been enthusiastic, while Canadian reaction has been tepid.

In the United States, where everyone went nuts over the Olympic basketball Dream Team this summer, the merits seem obvious; network TV exposure, with the large Olympic audience getting fired up about, say, Team USA's Jeremy Roenick or Mike Richter instead of guys who aren't really good enough to play in the NHL, like Clark Donatelli and Ray LeBlanc.

But in Canada, where most people already are sold on hockey, where there is plenty of good national TV exposure and where the NBA Dream Team barely was a blip on the radar screen, the concept is a tougher sell.

This is evident in the current is sue of the Hockey News, where a columnist -- a Canadian writer -- puzzles over the Olympic idea. Doesn't the NHL already have the Canada Cup? Who cares about the Olympics?

The answers, from an American perspective, are as follows:

* The Canada Cup might as well be the Davis Cup for all anybody cares down here.

* The United States cares about the Olympics. A lot. Americans especially care about the guys wearing red, white and blue.

Sure, there are problems with Stein's idea. A bunch of guys who don't make the Olympic teams will be sitting around for three weeks in February, for one thing, unless they can make this reduced schedule bit work. For another, an NHL team could lose a star to injury in the Olympics and not get him back for the playoffs.

But as Stein has noted, the NHL shut down for 10 days during last season's strike, right before the playoffs, and the world didn't end. And injuries always are a concern in these international events, but that's just the way it goes.

Here's hoping the "Dream Tourney" becomes reality.

Live and learn

Dominic Roussel still is a rookie goalie. He played in 17 NHL games for the Flyers last season, well short of the 25 needed to cast off rookie status. In fact, Monday's 8-4 loss to the New York Rangers was just Dom's 26th career NHL game, something his poise and polish tend to make you forget.

There are times, though, when a rookie is a rookie. One of those came with just 1 minute, 56 seconds left in Monday's loss, when Mike Gartner zoomed down the right side, went around the net and wrapped the puck inside the left post before Roussel could shift over. It was Gartner's second goal on that move in the game.

As Rangers coach Roger Neilson noted afterward, "He's got a patent on that play; nobody does it like him. It's not like it's a surprise. Everybody knows that's his play and he executes it so well."

Well, not quite everybody, Roger.

"Oh, really?" Roussel asked afterward, when a reporter told him the wrap was Gartner's favorite move. "I didn't know that. On the second one, I was expecting him to cut in front."

That explains why Roussel was well out of the net on the right side, with no chance to get to the left post when Gartner went behind.

Potvin remembers

Denis Potvin wasn't quite as celebrated a rookie as Eric Lindros, he says, but he might have been close. Potvin, the first player chosen in the 1973 draft by the expansion New York Islanders, set career goal and assist records for defensemen in his 15 NHL seasons, records since surpassed by Paul Coffey, now with the Los Angeles Kings.

Potvin, a Hall of Famer, came to the Spectrum last week to present the Flyers' Alka-Seltzer Plus Award for last season to Kevin Dineen. Potvin is the spokesman for the award.

"There are a lot of similarities in Eric's situation," Potvin said. "The Flyers are not an expansion team, but they are hovering around the bottom of the division, building their team around him, which is exactly what I had. And like me, he has one arena in the league where he gets a loud reception."

For Lindros, that arena would be in Quebec, of course. For Potvin, it was Madison Square Garden, where Rangers fans didn't like the idea of Potvin coming in and helping the upstart Isles to four Stanley Cups.

Nearly 20 years after his debut, Potvin said being the Isles' focal point at age 19 wasn't much fun. He said he recalled a lot of "hesitation and confusion," and a sense of being overwhelmed by life off the ice on Long Island, living away from his parents for the first time.

Potvin said Lindros shouldn't expect to be comfortable right away.

"It takes at least a year," he said. "My second year, I started to feel I was controlling my game, and had a good handle on our team, the way we played."

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