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The NHL / Julie Cart : Ontario Government Stepping In

January 23, 1987|JULIE CART

It was a startling announcement. The government of Ontario will spend $1.4 million (Canadian) over the next 15 months to promote safety in sports, with an emphasis on ending violence in hockey.

"We will be introducing an amendment, and then the power will be there to legislate whatever we feel is necessary to reduce violence and increase the safety for all sports," said John Eakins, Ontario's minister of tourism and recreation, in making the announcement last week.

"It is not the job of government to make up the rules. But if the rules aren't being followed, that's when we should apply muscle. What we are saying is that unless they provide a safe environment, then there will be no assistance or grants from our ministry, period."

Canadians have been shocked into action by recent brawls involving the Canadian junior team at the World Championships in Czechoslovakia. The Canadian team was involved with major fights with teams from the United States and the Soviet Union.

Eakins said the money will be spent to improve the training of referees, on programs to promote better injury care and to provide arenas with safer, and more expensive, hockey nets.

While this action does not carry the implications of Boston's city ordinance--an all-encompassing ban on violence in professional sports, backed by the police--it's an indication that Canada is taking a harder, and more critical, look at its national sport.

The silliness surrounding Rendez-Vous, this year's NHL All-Star series, continues.

Alan Eagleson, the executive director of the NHL Players' Assn., is not satisfied with either the quantity or quality of the players and coaches allotment of tickets for the two-game series against the Soviet Union's national team. The games are in Quebec City, Feb. 11 and 13.

At first Eagleson told Marcel Aubut, the event's organizer, that if the players were not given more tickets for their families, the players would boycott the event.

Now, Eagleson says that unless they get their way, the players will take their pucks and sticks and play somewhere else.

Eagleson is not satisfied with the 1,000 tickets made available to the players, their families and friends and team and league officials.

He suggested that if the Colisee in Quebec could not accommodate them, there were other arenas that would.

"We cannot expect the players and the owners to be in a second-class arena," Eagleson said. "They've got to supply the seats.

While that drama played out, two of the NHL stars, if not All-Stars, may not play in the games, if they ever happen.

Paul Coffey, who won the Norris Trophy last season as the NHL's best defenseman, is questionable with a back injury.

The Edmonton Oilers said that Coffey, whose injury has bothered him for more than a month, might be better off resting that week.

Another Oiler, Wayne Gretzky, was snubbed in the fan voting. The fans selected Mario Lemieux of Pittsburgh as the starting center. "My record through the years and my two Stanley Cups speak for themselves, and if some people don't like what I do on the ice, there is nothing I can do about it," Gretzky said.

It is not known if Gretzky will play.

The Vancouver Canucks finally got the monkey off their back in Calgary.

The Canucks had never beated the Flames in the Saddledome--they last beat Calgary in December, 1982, at the Stampede Corral, and they've lost 10 and tied two since. So their 4-3 win over the Flames in the Saddledome last week may foreshadow a change of fortune for the Canucks.

"Every time we'd hop on the plane, someone would remind us that we'd never beaten Calgary in the Saddledome," Vancouver center Steve Tambellini said. "Now, they can't say it anymore."

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