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NHL Notes : Pocklington's Motto Is Never Say Never

February 05, 1989|KEN RAPPOPORT | Associated Press

Edmonton Oilers owner Peter Pocklington has received a lot of abuse from fans at home for trading Wayne Gretzky. But he says he doesn't blame them for being bitter.

"I don't know if I'd ever forgive me (if he was a fan)," Pocklington said recently. "If I was a fan I don't think I'd forgive me. If I weren't me, I don't know if I'd trust me or not."

All this came up in the midst of a rumor that Pocklington was considering selling goaltender Grant Fuhr. Pocklington denied the rumor, adding he would never sell another player again like he sold Gretzky.

"I never say never about anything, but Wayne Gretzky was once in a lifetime," Pocklington said.

Edmonton Coach Glen Sather, responding to a recent report that the Oilers were having difficulty filling the stands since trading Gretzky:

"We've had 97 and 98 per cent capacity. I'd have used 99, but we're not using that number any more."

Bobby Hull, the legendary left wing, will become the second player in history to have his number retired by two teams.

Hull, whose number has been retired by the Chicago Blackhawks, will be honored by the Winnipeg Jets in March.

Gordie Howe's number has been retired by Detroit and Toronto.

Coincidentally, Hull and Howe both wore No. 9.

Winnipeg center Dale Hawerchuk is trying be positive, even though the Jets have been struggling of late.

After a recent 9-4 loss to Edmonton that was one of the low points of the season, Hawerchuk said things could be worse.

How so?

"The low point of the season is when there are a couple of games left and you haven't got enough games to catch up for the playoffs."

Who can Mario Lemieux thank for taking over Wayne Gretzky's spot as the NHL scoring leader?

Wayne Gretzky.

According to Chicago Blackhawks coach Mike Keenan, the main reason for Lemieux's improvement in Pittsburgh the last two seasons is Gretzky. Keenan was their coach on the Canadian team in the 1987 Canada Cup.

"I hope Mario has sent Wayne a thank-you note," Keenan says. "There's no question he wouldn't be the player today if not for playing with Wayne in the Canada Cup. "Wayne taught Mario everything he knew about hockey, then he went out and met all the challenges from Mario on the ice. Your top players learn from and desire challenges like that."

When the Soviet Red Army hockey team was in Hartford for a recent tour, the players went to see the movie "Naked Gun." A scene in the film shows a lookalike of Mikhail Gorbachev being grabbed by a guy, who rubs off the distinctive birthmark on the Soviet leader's head.

"I was afraid they wouldn't like it," said Mike Hume, who was the NHL liaison to the Soviet team. "But they were laughing so hard, they were holding their sides."

The Red Army squad was unable to practice at Hartford's Civic Center, and the players had to skate in an old, cold arena in the suburbs.

"It was as close to Siberia as we could get for them," Hartford coach Larry Pleau said.

The NHL is taking a tougher stance on criticism of officials.

Recently, the league sent a memo to the 21 teams advising non-playing personnel they could be fined for criticizing referees. The memo, from NHL lawyer Gil Stein, says even the "spirit and implication" of a coach's comments will be considered a breach of the rules.

"Thus, for example, if a coach says to a reporter: 'I will say nothing about tonight's officiating because I don't want to be fined by the league,' he'll be fined."

The writing may be on the wall for New York Islanders veteran center Bryan Trottier. The New York Islanders have told Trottier that his ice time will be reduced in favor of younger players.

Trottier and his agent, Bob Thornton, talked to general manager Bill Torrey about the issue.

"He does not want to be a part-time player," Thornton says. "If his ice time is cut considerably, he doesn't want too be here anymore."

A stumbing block to dealing Trottier is his $700,000 salary.

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