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The NHL : There's Some Sentiment for League Expansion

November 11, 1987|Jerry Crowe

While maintaining that groups representing 12 to 15 cities have expressed interest in acquiring franchises, John Ziegler said at a news conference last month that the National Hockey League has no plans to expand.

The NHL president said that the league would review its stance on expansion during its Board of Governors meetings next month at Palm Beach, Fla.

At least one owner, Howard Baldwin of Hartford, is in favor of adding as many as three teams to a league that has only one franchise in the Western United States.

Much to their consternation, the Kings play in a division with four teams based in Canadian cities.

"There are a lot of new buildings going up across North America," Baldwin said. "We're all being very naive if we think somewhere down the road there won't be someone like me or someone else that won't start up a new league."

Add expansion: One of the cities courting the NHL is San Jose, which plans to open a 19,000-seat facility in the early 1990s and hopes to attract National Basketball Assn. and NHL teams to fill it.

In seven consecutive games, dating back to Nov. 19, 1983, when he said the New Jersey Devils were "ruining hockey" and "putting a Mickey Mouse operation on the ice," Wayne Gretzky has failed to score in the Brendan Byrne Arena at East Rutherford, N.J.

The Devils beat Edmonton last month in Byrne Arena, 6-5.

"Part of the reason we play so well against him might be because of what he said about us," Devil defenseman Joe Cirella said.

Said Michel Petit, traded last week from the Vancouver Canucks to the New York Rangers: "Playing in Vancouver is like being six feet under."

Apparently, Vancouver Coach Bob McCammon can relate.

"When a winning team gets down a goal, they just erase it," said McCammon, who formerly coached at Philadelphia. "When we get down a goal, everybody on our bench sinks about four inches. When we get down two goals, everybody is so low that I can see the whole ice surface."

Since beating the Philadelphia Flyers on Jan. 20, 1974, the Pittsburgh Penguins are 0-35-3 at the Spectrum. They will try to end the streak Thursday night.

Al Secord of the Toronto Maple Leafs, one of 12 NHL players who do not wear helmets, doesn't believe he's endangering himself by shunning the headgear.

"It's like worrying about walking across a street and getting hit by a car," he said. "If you think about it, it might happen, but if you don't think about it, it doesn't happen."

Say what?

Coach Terry Simpson of the New York Islanders literally undressed three of his players recently during the second intermission of a 5-2 loss to the Toronto Maple Leafs.

Saying they weren't trying hard enough, Simpson ordered defenseman Gerald Diduck and forwards Brad Lauer and Mikko Makela to remove their uniforms and not return to the ice with the rest of the team for the third period.

"It was too crowded on the bench," Simpson said. "I needed to make some room."

Said Makela: "I feel I deserved it. I didn't play well. I tried hard, but . . . I don't know. What can you say? It was his decision--and I thought it was right."

Coach Pierre Creamer of the Pittsburgh Penguins, on why he doesn't join his players in flexibility exercises: "The coach cannot stretch. He stretches only his head when he tries something different."

After turning down a five-year contract last weekend that reportedly would have paid him $600,000 a year and given him a piece of unspecified Alberta real estate, Edmonton's Paul Coffey continues his holdout amid rumors that eventually he will be traded.

Winnipeg's Dale Hawerchuk said the Oilers aren't the same without the all-star defenseman.

"With that speed and ability to carry the puck, Coffey gives the Oilers a dimension no one else has," Hawerchuk told the Toronto Star. "When, say, Wayne Gretzky's line starts out in a three-on-three rush, all of a sudden there's a little blur--Coffey--and they have a four-on-three.

"Coffey's been a big part of their success, and it seems strange to think of him playing for anyone else."

During its telecast of the Pittsburgh-Philadelphia game last week, ESPN asked its audience: "Is there too much violence in the NHL?"

Of the 21,877 viewers who called to respond, 57% said no.

The results delighted Bill Clement, ESPN's hockey analyst.

"If the NHL did an expansive poll and a large majority of people wanted fighting out, then I'd say look at getting rid of it," Clement told the Hartford Courant. "But as long as our society condones, promotes and endorses a barbaric sport like boxing, that's the way I feel."

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