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THE INSIDE TRACK | MORNING BRIEFING

Toledo Making Sure Practices Aren't Interactive

April 18, 1999|LISA DILLMAN

UCLA Coach Bob Toledo is taking on two tough opponents: armchair quarterbacks and the Internet.

Fed up with Web site chatter about his football team, Toledo has closed the Bruins' spring practices to all but credentialed reporters, players' relatives, high school coaches and invited prospects.

School spokesman Marc Dellins said overzealous Bruin watchers were posting too many "inaccurate" spring practice reports on Internet sites.

For what it's worth, several of those reports have concluded that redshirt freshman Ryan McCann, a left-hander from Agoura High, has been the most impressive of the five quarterbacks vying for the starting role.

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Trivia time: Against whom did Wayne Gretzky score his first NHL goal?

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99 Tears: Gretzky was emotional at the news conference when he was traded to the Kings from the Edmonton Oilers in 1988.

"I promised Mess I wouldn't do this," he said of teammate Mark Messier.

That day, he said the same thing he said on Friday at his retirement news conference:

"It was my own gut feeling."

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Billy Joel? Gretzky had a sense of humor even when he was being criticized during the Stanley Cup playoff series against the Toronto Maple Leafs in 1993 when he was with the Kings. One Toronto writer said he was skating as if he had a piano on his back.

Gretzky, on the afternoon before Game 7, sipped tea with his agent and fired back:

"The piano man still has a tune to play."

He scored three goals in the Kings' win.

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Lights out: The last time Gretzky played on a Stanley Cup-winning team was in 1988, when the Oilers defeated the Boston Bruins.

Game 4 in Boston was interrupted when the lights went out and the series moved back to Edmonton.

"The Americans will call it 4-A," he said of the makeup game. "We'll call it 4, eh?"

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Met gain: Mike Piazza wandered around the streets of New York with a reporter from GQ and talked about the difference between Los Angeles and New York.

"I walk out in the morning, and the UPS guy tells me to go get 'em or something," he said. "It's fine, but . . . there's definitely something to be said for anonymity."

He can usually handle the attention.

"Just sometimes you have to go somewhere," he said. "I'm a regular person also, and I have things to do. I'm in a store and a guy says to me, 'What are you doing here?' 'I'm buying toilet paper. What do you think I'm doing here?' "

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Boston blues: Coach Rick Pitino of the Boston Celtics had an interesting take on his team's struggles.

"To me, this is not tragedy, this is adversity," he told the Sporting News. "You can overcome adversity. You're not going to overcome it with all-night meetings or things like that. The way to overcome it is through talent and wisdom. Believe it or not, I'm enjoying a lot of this."

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Trivia answer: Glen Hanlon of the Vancouver Canucks.

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And finally: General Manager Jim Bowden of the Cincinnati Reds, on second baseman Carlos Baerga, who has shown a willingness to work while losing nine pounds in the minor leagues: "He's hungry again."

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