Easy, Wayne, these stars got hurt before the strike


November 16, 1993|By SANDRA McKEE

Sometimes people get carried away during the intensity of a strike. Carried away is how Los Angeles Kings superstar Wayne Gretzky sounded this week. The Great One said he hopes "no big-name players will get hurt, because then there'll be people asking questions" about the substitute officials.

At the very least, Gretzky's timing is curious, based on the NHL's most recent string of injuries.

Its top star, Pittsburgh's Mario Lemieux, is sidelined indefinitely with a chronic back problem aggravated by the physical play in the league. And one of its next-best hopes for a future star, Philadelphia's Eric Lindros, is out indefinitely with a knee injury.

Detroit center Steve Yzerman is out as the result of an injury. And Toronto left wing Nikolai Borschevsky is one of the latest to be sidelined, out six to eight weeks after surgery to remove a ruptured spleen incurred Wednesday against the Florida Panthers.

The regular officials were present for all those on-ice injuries and more. Is anyone asking questions about them?

If anything is crystal clear about hockey, it is that injuries are going to happen -- no matter who is blowing the whistle.

"The thing that I'm concerned about is the integrity of the game," said the Washington Capitals veteran goalie Don Beaupre. "The last thing you want is to see the integrity go down. But, who knows? Maybe these guys will call it exactly by the book, and it will be better."

The 58 regular referees and linesmen have been without a contract since Aug. 31. Last night was the beginning of the first officials strike in NHL history. The officials association decided to call it at midnight Sunday, because the NHL has refused to meet demands for a $1.5 million-a-year raise over each of the next four years.

The league is offering a 65 percent raise over four years, including a 29 percent raise in the first year of the contract, retroactive to the beginning of the season. The union wants 60 percent in the first year.

"Everyone in hockey would rather have the regular officials," said Capitals general manager David Poile, whose team will see the substitute officials for the first time tonight at USAir Arena against the San Jose Sharks. "But it's a negotiation and the show must go on and it will go on."

Poile added he's not sure the change in officials will make the game very much different.

"It's a respect issue," he said. "The players want the games to be good, the replacement officials want the games to be good and we want the games to be good."

The bottom line is, if the replacement officials don't do a good job, the league will be much more interested in finding a solution, and if the replacements are good, the officials association might not be so adamant about that $1.5 million.

Tattooed for life

Defenseman Al Iafrate, who leads the Capitals in scoring with 15 points, has an Indian brave and a spear tattooed on his left arm. On his leg are an arrow and a rainbow.

"I've always heard that a tattoo is supposed to be a portrait of your soul," Iafrate said. "I didn't get these at age 18. I got them when I was older and knew myself better. I waited until I knew what I could live with for the rest of my life."

Iafrate explained his tattoos this way: "I don't believe in betraying people, and Indians were betrayed," he said. "It was one of the first things we did when we came to this country, and I think that is why we have so many problems today. Unfair and unjustified acts have been multiplying ever since."

Portland update

Because Baltimore Skipjacks fans are a loyal group, this column will include a weekly update of the Portland Pirates of the American Hockey League. Several former Skipjacks play for the Pirates, who moved from Baltimore to Portland, Maine, after last season.

The Pirates' 5-0-1 streak this month has them in sole possession of first place in the AHL's Northern Division. They are 11-4-2 overall and 6-1-1 against division foes. The team's last win came against the Providence Bruins Sunday, 5-2, as goalie Byron Dafoe stopped a team-record 39 shots. Dafoe is unbeaten in six straight games and has a 2.35 goals-against average. . . . The Pirates are averaging 5,466 after eight home games.

Family ties

It is going to take quite an effort to bump the six Sutter brothers from the top of the NHL's highest-scoring families chart, but there are a number of families out there trying.

The Sutters top the list, with Duane, Darryl, Rich, Ron, Brian and Brent combining for 2,715 points. Rich, Ron and Brent are active.

The Howes -- Mark, Marty and father Gordie -- are second with 2,666 points. Only Mark is active.

The Hulls -- Bobby and Dennis and Bobby's son, Brett -- have combined for 2,451 points. Brett, with the St. Louis Blues, was named NHL Player of the Week yesterday, leading all scorers with nine points in three games.

The Gretzkys -- Tampa Bay's Brent and L.A.'s Wayne -- have 2,366 points, fourth on the list.

The Stastnys -- Peter, Anton and Marion -- have 2,151 career points. None is playing in the NHL.

For those who go way back, the long-retired Richards -- Maurice and Henri -- have 2,011. Peter and Frank Mahovlich have 1,876. And the Mahovliches had better watch out, because the Dionnes -- retired Marcel and Gilbert, who is beginning a promising career with the Canadiens, -- are at 1,863 and counting.

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