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STANLEY CUP PLAYOFFS | NHL NOTES

Pressure Gets to Tremblay, so He Quits Montreal

May 01, 1997|From Times Wire Services

A bitter Mario Tremblay resigned as coach of the Montreal Canadiens on Wednesday, citing attacks by the intensely critical Montreal media as a major reason for his decision.

The Canadiens have a media following like no other NHL team and few in any sport. No one has their performance analyzed and criticized like the Canadiens' coach.

"A coach has to live with criticism," Tremblay said. "But there's a point where it has to stop. When they do things to try to break you, that's not right."

What wasn't answered when Tremblay and General Manager Rejean Houle faced a packed news conference at the Molson Centre was whether a coaching change would have been made even if Tremblay hadn't resigned.

The Canadiens were in disarray following their playoff elimination in five games by New Jersey after a mediocre 31-36-15 season.

Some players, speaking under cover of anonymity in newspaper reports, questioned Tremblay's competence.

Tremblay, hired as coach five games into the 1995-96 season, insisted he did well to get Montreal into the playoffs with an injury-plagued club.

And he pointed out that the daily pressure of facing cameras, microphones and notebooks has affected other, more experienced coaches too.

Jacques Lemaire, now the coach of the Devils, wanted out of the Montreal job in 1985 because he didn't like dealing with the media. Pat Burns left in 1992 "before it went too far," Tremblay said.

Burns, who went to Toronto and was fired in March 1996, is among the names circulating to replace Tremblay in what is still considered one of the top coaching jobs in hockey.

Another is Tremblay's close friend Michel Bergeron, who formerly coached the Quebec Nordiques and New York Rangers.

"Ask anyone, they all want to coach here," said Bergeron. "But believe me, it's tough."

*

The Philadelphia Flyers, who take on the Buffalo Sabres in an NHL Eastern Conference semifinal series starting Saturday, lost rookie Vaclav Prospal for the remainder of the playoffs because of a broken left wrist suffered in Wednesday's practice.

Prospal, a 6-foot-2, 190-pound center, had five goals and 10 assists in 18 games after being recalled from the American Hockey League. He anchored the second line that had been taking pressure off the team's "Legion of Doom" line of Eric Lindros, John LeClair and Mikael Renberg.

*

The San Jose Sharks re-signed veteran defenseman Al Iafrate, who has played only 38 games over the past three seasons because of back and knee injuries.

Iafrate, 31, underwent surgery on March 6 for a herniated disk in his lower back. He had six goals and nine assists.

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