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Ducks' Coaching Move Leaves Kariya Confused

May 24, 1997|ELLIOTT TEAFORD | TIMES STAFF WRITER

ANAHEIM — Paul Kariya said Friday he reacted to the news that Ron Wilson would not return as Mighty Duck coach like almost everyone else.

"I was pretty shocked," said Kariya, speaking for the first time about Wilson's departure after four seasons as coach. "I don't understand the off-the-ice stuff they're talking about. I don't really know what really went on behind the scenes and maybe that outweighs what he did on the ice.

"Ron left a message on my [answering] machine saying he got fired. He was always playing practical jokes like that with me, so he had to convince me he was telling the truth."

Kariya, on a self-imposed hockey hiatus until June 1, said he isn't sure how the decision not to renew Wilson's contract will impact his attempts to forge a new deal with the Ducks. He becomes a restricted free agent July 1 and the Ducks say they will match any outside offer.

"I told my agent I don't want get into that until June 1," said Kariya, who made $2.075 million last season, the last of a three-year contract.

"I'm disappointed. And on a personal note, [Wilson] has been been fantastic for my career. He's done a lot of things to help me. He's the first coach ever to get me to play defense.

"He'll wind up on his feet in a matter of weeks."

Kariya, the Duck captain and second-leading scorer with 44 goals and 99 points in 1996-97, said he never heard of a dressing-room revolt against Wilson and the coaching staff.

"You'll never have 22 guys who absolutely love the coach or absolutely hate the coach," he said. "Overall, he did a great job."

In other news Friday:

* The Ducks and Guy Hebert's agent have started talking about a new contract for the all-star goaltender. It's believed Hebert, 30, would like a five-year contract that could keep him in a Duck uniform for the rest of his career.

"I think he's gone from being just a competent starter to being in the top tier of NHL goalies," said Brian Cook, Hebert's Boston-based agent.

Hebert was fishing in the Florida Keys and unavailable for comment Friday.

* Former Phoenix Coach Don Hay said he's interested in the Ducks' coaching position but so far has not been contacted.

"I want to work my way back into an NHL head coaching position, and Anaheim is one of the top organizations in the league," Hay said.

* Wilson has been contacted about filling the vacant general manager's position with the Washington Capitals.

It's also believed Wilson will interview for the Phoenix coaching job with General Manager Bobby Smith by next week at the latest.

* The Ducks are expected to adopt a more aggressive stance in pursuing free agents once the July 1 deadline to negotiate passes.

They are probably most interested in Edmonton defenseman Luke Richardson, who would add more aggressiveness on the blue line, and Detroit center Igor Larionov, who would be ideal to play with wingers Kariya and Teemu Selanne.

Richardson and Larionov are unrestricted free agents.

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