Panthers question order's timing NHL rule on stick not previously enforced

June 06, 1996|By NEW YORK TIMES NEWS SERVICE

DENVER -- The Florida Panthers, who have been complaining about a lack of respect from fans and the news media around the country, yesterday accused the NHL of giving them one more reason to feel maligned.

The Panthers were steaming about an NHL order forcing them to have goalie John Vanbiesbrouck's stick retaped less than a half-hour before Tuesday night's Stanley Cup Finals opener, the biggest game in the franchise's history.

A league rule says a goalie's stick cannot have any color of tape on it except white. Before Tuesday night, Vanbiesbrouck had used red tape on the end of his sticks for more than two seasons without incident, said Bill Torrey, president of the third-year team.

That includes 18 playoff games this season.

"We don't argue the rule," Torrey said. "We don't argue that it's there and should be enforced. What we felt was bad judgment was the timing, the manner in which it was delivered and the fact that John's had the red tape there throughout the playoffs and long before that. Now why all of a sudden, six minutes before we're to go out on the ice, do they spring this?"

The Panthers suspected a bit of gamesmanship by the Colorado Avalanche, which went on to win Tuesday night's game. 3-1.

"This is not an excuse why we lost," Florida coach Doug MacLean said. "It probably didn't affect the outcome. But I think it was a total lack of common sense."

Vanbiesbrouck said that the late change "didn't affect me. Preparation is all part of the game."

But when asked when the white-tape-only rule might have been put into the NHL rule book, Vanbiesbrouck said without hesitation, "3001 B.C., I guess."

Pub Date: 6/06/96

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