PITTSBURGH — Paul (Hot) Coffey was really steaming last week.
The All-Star defenseman, who is holding out in hopes of having his contract renegotiated, vowed never to return to the Edmonton Oilers after Oiler owner Peter Pocklington reportedly said in a phone conversation with Coffey's agent that Coffey lacked courage.
Pocklington said he did not intend for his remarks to agent Gus Badaldi to be made public.
"Gus asked me why I wouldn't pay Paul the $800,000 a year he wants, and I said he hadn't played well enough last year to deserve that kind of money," Pocklington told the Toronto Globe and Mail.
"I said that many times he appeared to lack intestinal fortitude in games and didn't seem to have the (guts) to go into the corner for the puck. I realize he had a bad back and perhaps that was the reason."
Coffey, who has two years remaining on a contract that reportedly pays him $320,000 a year, said he was aware that disparaging words are often a part of negotiations.
"But when somebody attacks you on a personal level, that's too much," he told the Globe and Mail. "He was questioning my guts, my courage. That's what hurt me the most.
"I helped them win three Stanley Cups, I won two Norris Trophies, played in two Canada Cups against the best in the world. In 1985, I played in the Stanley Cup final with a cracked bone in my foot and had to have freezing in my hip before every game.
"That was to play hockey for him and win a Stanley Cup for Edmonton."
Coffey hopes to be traded.
Of the Oilers, he said: "It's impossible for me to go back and put on that hockey sweater again."
The Oilers, however, don't seem all that interested in trading Coffey.
Jim Devellano, general manager of the Detroit Red Wings, said he offered two first-round draft choices and a player for Coffey. "He didn't even blink before he turned it down," Devellano said of Glen Sather, the Oilers' president, general manager and coach.
Said Sather: "Draft choices aren't going to help me replace Paul Coffey right now. If it comes to a trade, I would want: (1) a forward who can play on the Oilers; (2) a defenseman who can play on the Oilers."
Love those superstitions! An eight-foot bronze statue of Kate Smith was recently unveiled outside the Spectrum in Philadelphia.
The statue was commissioned by the Philadelphia Flyers to honor the late singer, who came to be known as the team's good-luck charm in the 1970s when her rendition of "God Bless America" was frequently substituted for the national anthem before important games.
The Flyers are 58-9-2 in games in which the song was played, including four live appearances by Smith in the Spectrum.
Rookie Brendan Shanahan of the New Jersey Devils touched off an ugly scene in the penalty box last Wednesday at Pittsburgh when he reportedly threw a cup of soda at a fan.
Shanahan "had just come into the penalty and the fans were yelling at him," Sandy Gentile, a Pittsburgh resident who witnessed the dispute, told the Associated Press. "It was nothing out of the ordinary. It was the way fans always do.
"There was an old cup of Coke in there. (Shanahan) picked it up and threw it at a man wearing an Iron City beer T-shirt. The Coke hit the guy and splattered his shirt and hair. He was so stunned, he couldn't believe it.
"The next thing you knew, beer and ice started pouring from the crowd and then the players started climbing the glass."
Police and security guards broke up the dispute when the side glass of the penalty box cracked as Devil players tried to climb over and confront the fans. One fan was ejected, and Shanahan and teammates John MacLean and Ken Daneyko were given game misconducts.
A videotape of the game arrived at the National Hockey League office in Montreal Friday, and suspensions are expected to be handed out this week.
Monkey see, monkey do. General managers in the junior Western Hockey League voted last week to have their teams warm up separately in an attempt to eliminate pregame brawls.
Instead of warming up simultaneously, the home team will skate for about 15 minutes before yielding the ice to the visitors for the same amount of time.
NHL president John Ziegler said he was surprised to read that the Soviets have said they will not play any more games against NHL players until the league sends a team to the Soviet Union for a series of exhibitions.
"We've been suggesting that to the Soviets since 1976," Ziegler said at a press conference last week in Edmonton. "As a matter of fact, I think we've suggested every year that we'd probably have one or two teams interested in going there.
"Now I read where they demand that we send a team over there before they'll continue to agree to play with us again. Well, we've gotten along without the Soviets before. They can demand whatever they want."