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THE INSIDE TRACK | THE HOT CORNER

May 22, 1997|HELENE ELLIOTT

A consumer's guide to the best and worst of sports media and merchandise. Ground rules: If it can be read, played, heard, observed, worn, viewed, dialed or downloaded, it's in play here.

What: "Be A Player! The Hockey Show"

This half-hour show, which airs on Canada's TSN and twice a week on ESPN2, is produced by the NHL Players Assn., so you know every player is going to be portrayed favorably. Still, it's entertaining and offers some insights into players' personalities.

Regular features include goal-scoring highlights, a segment on past players and a trivia quiz that's often hilarious. Players are the contestants, and they seem to enjoy testing each other's knowledge. No one knew the identity of the goalie who had won the Lester Pearson Award--even though that award is voted by players and given to the league's outstanding player. There's either too many awards or too many players who are ignorant about the league's traditions.

The show, which has completed its original run this season, is hosted by Brett Lindros, who had to retire after last season because of the cumulative effects of several concussions, and Canadian sportscaster Sandra Neil. Lindros has an impressive presence, but Neil is too obviously reading a script. John Davidson, a former NHL goalie who does commentary for Fox and on New York's MSG Network, lends credibility with a weekly segment.

The profiles have been interesting, including one on San Jose goalie Ed Belfour's passion for drag racing and one on Toronto center Mats Sundin's rock climbing. Another segment featured Montreal center Saku Koivu getting a curling lesson as part of his immersion in Canadian culture. But a Brett Hull interview--inaccurately called an exclusive--broke no new ground and merely regurgitated his battles with former St. Louis Coach Mike Keenan. Hull is a bright guy and insightful questions might have produced better responses.

Just as players can always improve, so can "Be A Player!" But it's good for its genre and a pleasant way to pass time between hockey games.

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