Tough guy spins children's tale

ON THE NHL

February 15, 1994|By SANDRA McKEE

Hop the frog, Whisper the dragonfly and Tollor the dragon are some of Anaheim right wing Todd Ewen's closest friends -- and none of them plays hockey for the Mighty Ducks -- though Whisper is into in-line skating and is very much a '90s kind of guy . . . hmm, make that fly.

Hop, Whisper and Tollor are some of the characters Ewen has written about and illustrated in the book "A Frog Named Hop," which is being considered for publication by Hyperion Books for Children, a division of the Walt Disney Co.

"I started writing the book, because when Tyler, my first child, was born, we got all these books for him, but it was hard to find any with a moral in them," Ewen said. "I think when kids are little, that's the time to start setting morality standards."

Ewen grew up reading "Green Eggs and Ham" and "The Cat in the Hat." He grew up not knowing exactly what he wanted to be. He liked hockey, yes, but he liked a lot of other things, too.

Ewen, 27, has been a cook,; a "roadie" with the band Wall Street out of Vancouver and a pit crew worker on open wheel cars on the smaller USAC circuits around California.

He's an artist who has left his mark around the NHL by making little hockey pants out of the white tape trainers use and giving the finished product to small children at the arenas -- much to the chagrin of the trainers, whose tape supplies shrink rapidly.

He is also a musician and owner of a Stanley Cup ring, which he won last year with Montreal but never wears "because I have great respect for the team I'm on now."

He plays four instruments -- guitar, bass, drums and piano -- and says there is nothing more enjoyable in his life than sitting on the floor, playing the guitar and drawing pictures with his two children, Tyler, 4, and Chadd, 1.

All this from the Mighty Ducks' toughest player. Ewen leads the team in penalty minutes with 197 and says he has no doubt about how he has to play the game.

"But I think, like a lot of guys, there is definitely a Jekyll and Hyde syndrome at work," he said. "People are much more aggressive at work. I'm good at playing hockey a certain way and I know it. But at home, it's music and art and my family."

His book is about Hop, a frog who loves music. But Hop lives in a town where everyone plays baseball. Hop gives up his music "to be one of the guys."

But he is miserable and eventually returns to music. Not only doesn't he lose his friends, but they come to admire him for working hard at something he loves and becoming very good at it.

"The idea is that maybe we should be doing something like that, too," said Ewen. "I've rewritten it a million times over the last three years.

"Tyler was my test project. He'd look at a picture, and if he didn't turn the page, I knew I was onto something. It was nice to have him develop along with the book's hero. Tyler's motor skills developed very fast. They were far and above his verbal skills. But I could tell what he meant. He had no problem letting me know when something was boring."

Ewen said he, Tyler and Chadd are beginning work on a second book, with Tollor the dragon as the main character.

"We have no idea where the story line is going," Ewen said. "But I think it's developing along the lines of 'Tollorance.' "

Carpenter revisited

A year ago, Bobby Carpenter turned out to be a big disappointment to the Washington Capitals, who signed him to be a scorer.

In 60 games, he managed 11 goals.

This season he has six, but Carpenter, at age 30, has found a niche.

He performs a valuable role for the New Jersey Devils. He is playing so well he is being touted by reporters who cover the team for the Selke Trophy as the top defensive forward.

Seriously.

He is averaging 35 minutes. He is not being asked to score goals but simply to play defense. The Devils take advantage of his hard checking on opposing teams' top forwards.

"There are only a handful of players who can score their whole career," said Carpenter, who once scored 53 goals as a Capital. "I knew I wasn't going to be one of them. I had to work so hard to score goals that I knew I would have to change my game to contribute someday.

"I feel what I'm doing now is just as valuable to the team, though I admit, when I was younger I didn't think so."

Portland update

The Portland Pirates, who used to be the Baltimore Skipjacks, went 2-2 last week to remain in second place in the American Hockey League Northern Division, six points behind Adirondack. Forward Keith Jones and defensemen Enrico Ciccone and Jason Woolley returned to the Washington Capitals after Sunday night's game. Jones had five goals and seven assists in his six games with the Pirates.

Rules crackdown

After the general managers' meeting in Florida last week, the NHL has sent out a directive advising on-ice officials to be more conscientious in enforcing certain rules.

* Boarding: A player who is about to touch the puck on an obvious icing should not be the recipient of any unnecessary contact that causes him to be knocked into the boards.

* Holding an opponent: A player must not have his movement impeded by an opponent grabbing his stick. A quick release, once a player has protected himself, is permitted.

* Protecting a goaltender: Deliberate contact with the goalie and a lack of an effort to avoid contact with the goalie must be penalized.

* Intentional interference, which takes the following forms, must be penalized: When the wing who isn't carrying the puck is restrained and/or eliminated from the play in progress; when a defenseman deliberately takes a non-puck-carrying attacker out of the play; when a player deliberately takes a non-puck-carrying opponent out of the play by placing a stick between his legs; when a player deliberately pushes or pulls an opponent over the blue line, causing an offside.

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