A FIGHT NOT WORTH WINNING
If only NHL president John Ziegler would pay heed to the crackdown on hockey violence that took place on Sunday at the World Junior Championships in Piestany, Czechoslovakia. In the tournament's final game, between Canada and the Soviet Union, the two teams sparred on and off for nearly a period and a half, then got into a 20-minute bench-clearing melee so fierce that the referee and linesmen had to take refuge off the ice. At one point the arena lights were turned off in a vain effort to quell the fight. Finally the players, plum tuckered out, simply gave up the fight.
With order restored, officials of the International Ice Hockey Federation huddled for 15 minutes, then decided to toss Canada and the U.S.S.R. out of the tournament. Players on the disqualified teams were ordered to stay away from the closing ceremonies and banquet. Nor is that all. At its annual congress meeting in Vienna in April, the IIHF will consider banning both teams from the 1988 world championships. That would be especially embarrassing for the Soviets, because the event is scheduled to be held in Leningrad.
The vote to disqualify the combatants in Piestany was 8-1. The dissenter was IIHF board member Dennis McDonald, an official of the Canadian Amateur Hockey Association, who took a soft-on-violence position that will have a familiar ring back home, where the NHL sets the tone by tolerating and even encouraging on-ice fighting. "This kind of thing is completely foreign to them [Europeans]," said McDonald. "I argued that the suspension in this case should have been against the individuals—the main participants in the fighting and the main individuals who led the charges from the benches. The teams should not have been suspended."
January 12, 1987
Oh, yes—the Canadian team stood to overtake first-place Finland and win the gold medal if it had beaten the Soviets by at least five goals, and it was leading 4-2 when the hostilities erupted. With the disqualification, the gold medal went to Finland. Lamented McDonald, "We won the fight and lost the medal."
EVERY PASS WAS A FROZEN ROPE
When people are cooped up in a cold, lonely place for any length of time, they're apt to come up with some nutty ways of amusing themselves. This is one of the nuttiest: A group of staffers at the National Science Foundation's Amundsen-Scott station, located a mere 400 feet from the South Pole, decided to challenge their replacements to a football game. Since the Navy was flying in the new personnel at New Year's, and since that is the heart of bowl season back home, the players dubbed their game the Pole Bowl. They played four 10-minute quarters on a field of 100,000-year-old, 9,299-foot-thick ice. They had planned to broadcast the game via ham radio to anybody who might happen to pick up the signal, but they couldn't get the generator to work.
Since all 24 of the time zones converge at the South Pole, the teams could have chosen, depending not only on the time of day but also on exactly where they laid out their field, to play on either New Year's Eve or New Year's Day, or even to move the second half of the game into the previous year. They wound up kicking off at approximately 9 p.m. EST on Dec. 31, they think.
The outpost had no stash of football equipment, so the players wore their everyday outfits of super-insulated parkas, boots and gloves. Temperature at game time was—30°F, and a steady breeze made it feel like 45 below. These were thought to be ideal conditions since, after all, it's summer in Antarctica.
The outcome? Nobody recalls the score, but a member of the crew that just finished its three-month tour at the pole reports: "We inflicted major damage on 'em."
SHARING THE WEALTH
Vinny Testaverde is feeling generous about the riches that await him after Tampa Bay makes him the first pick in the upcoming NFL draft. "I want to give to others, buy them things, make them feel good," says the University of Miami quarterback. "Family. Friends. A kid selling newspapers on the corner—I want to give him 10 bucks. I want to give a waitress a 40-percent tip. No, 50 percent. That's what money's for, to make people happy."
Hey, Vinny—nothing for yourself? Just the joy of giving? Well, maybe one other thing. "Black Lamborghini, saddle interior," Testaverde confesses. "It'll be the start of my car collection."
Ballot-stuffing campaigns for all-star games can sometimes get hometown heroes selected, whether they're worthy or not. Just look at the latest results of the balloting for the NHL All-Star team that will play the Soviets in a two-game series next month in Quebec. Certainly Pittsburgh's Mario Lemieux is an exceptional center. But should anyone start at that position other than Wayne Gretzky? At last count the Great One was second in the fans' poll, 54,826 votes behind Lemieux's total of 171,523.
Football fans recently selected the Bears' Jim Covert and the Raiders' Howie Long as the offensive and defensive winners of the Pro Football Hall of Fame Lineman of the Year awards. Both have had distinguished careers and have been named to this year's Pro Bowl teams. But it seems they are being saluted for past performance rather than for their play in 1986. Long, for instance, missed three games, and his 7½ sacks are his lowest total in four years. The contest heavily favors well-known veterans. Before the season begins, each NFL team is asked to submit just one offensive and one defensive nominee, with the result that rookies and unheralded players aren't on the ballot. Alas, one-third of the nominees eventually missed part of the season with injuries.
IT'S A JUNGLE OUT THERE
Is the wildlife getting wilder in Switzerland? A physician in that country says he has treated a dozen runners in the past year for scalp lacerations suffered in attacks by birds.
A NEWSPAPER MISFIRES
To illustrate a story about a spat between Oilers coach Glen Sather and defenseman Paul Coffey, the guys down at The Edmonton Journal's photo lab pasted together pictures of the two men that had been taken during an afternoon at the trap-shooting range. In the paste-up, their rifles were pointed at each other's head. When a storm of protest followed—parents who had told their children not to point guns at other people were especially outraged—the Journal's graphics editor, Steve Makris, admitted that the illustration had been contrived in the lab and said that an explanation of how the photo had been pieced together should have been given in a caption.
John Brown, the newspaper's ombudsman and the man who fielded the complaints, disagreed—and he did so publicly. "No amount of explanation would have made the Sather-Coffey illustration fit for publication," he wrote in his weekly column in the Journal. "It was extremely unfair to them, as they were falsely portrayed doing something highly irresponsible. As one reader said, it made the men look like idiots. Even allowing for traditional sports-section license, the picture went too far."
NBC's halftime fare at the Fiesta Bowl went sadly awry. We don't just mean the visit with President Reagan, either. Here the President was once again, rambling on genially about his football-playing and-broadcasting days. That was harmless enough. Not so NBC's decision to transport the Nightly News desk to the press box at Sun Devil Stadium. After sports-caster Bob Costas introduced "broadcaster and football fan Tom Brokaw," viewers were subjected to a disquieting experience. As images of the tragic San Juan hotel fire and the killer storm that was battering the East Coast were shown, the cheery music of the on-field band played in the background. It was an unsuitable and unsettling juxtaposition.
DALLAS DREAM TEAM
Our favorite item left under the tree this Christmas was The Dallas Titans Get Ready for Bed (Harper & Row, $11.95). Written by Karla Kuskin and illustrated by Marc Simont, Titans was called "a neat, funny book" by The New York Times. Indeed it is. In a spare, droll style, Kuskin tells of the Titans having just won a game, something their real-world Dallas counterparts found difficult to do this season. Coach Dutch Scorch enters the noisy locker room. "He does not smile. He never does. His voice is loud. It always is.... 'Tomorrow morning at nine I want everybody on the field for practice. Now out of your uniforms, into the showers, and home to bed.' "
The Titans' reluctant capitulation to Scorch's orders is something that many NFL and college teams would do well to emulate. Kuskin weaves math and morality seamlessly into her tale, and after 41 happy pages, all the Titans are in dreamland: "They sleep like logs. They sleep like babies. And as they sleep they dream.... They dream about running and winning forever." That, of course, remains but a dream in Dallas.
THEY SAID IT
•Benny Perry, heavily recruited strong safety from Bryan Adams High School in Dallas, on overtures from the scandal-plagued Southwest Conference: "You couldn't pay me to go to an SWC school."
•Lou Carnesecca, St. John's basketball coach, bemoaning the complexities of the 411-page NCAA Manual and rule book: "Our Lord gave us Ten Commandments, and look at the trouble we have with those."
•Caldwell Jones, Portland Trailblazer center, when asked to name his favorite seafood: "Saltwater taffy."