A Beleaguered League
During the NHL meetings last week in Montreal, the 14,000 fans who turned out for the entry draft at the Forum booed as a record number of players with a serious defect—they weren't Canadian—were selected by the league's 24 teams. In all, 88 Europeans were chosen in the 11 rounds, including the first pick: Roman Hamrlik, a defenseman from Czechoslovakia who was selected by the expansion Tampa Bay Lightning. The Forum faithful should have cheered, because in recent years NHL play has benefited from the influx of skilled Europeans who stress finesse over thuggery.
What the crowd should have booed was the NHL's bungling of both the Eric Lindros mess and the expansion draft to stock Tampa Bay and the other expansion team, the Ottawa Senators.
Last Saturday, Lindros—who was the NHL's No. 1 draft choice in 1991 and has stubbornly refused to play for the Quebec Nordiques, the team that chose him—was traded to the Philadelphia Flyers or the New York Rangers. Take your pick, which is exactly what an arbitrator was assigned to do. On Saturday morning Philadelphia and Quebec apparently shook hands on a Lindros deal that had the Flyers sending some combination of defenseman Steve Duchesne, goalie Ron Hextall, forwards Rob Brind'Amour, Mark Recchi and Mike Ricci, two first-round picks and $15 million to the Nordiques. Then, minutes later, the wealthy Rangers apparently one-upped the Flyers by offering some combination of forwards Tony Amonte, Alexei Kovalev, Sergei Nemchinov and Doug Weight, defenseman James Patrick, goalies Mike Richter and John Vanbiesbrouck and $20 million.
Philadelphia cried foul, and lame-duck NHL president John Ziegler lamely ducked the issue by dumping matters into the lap of the arbitrator, who had not made a decision as of Monday night.
The Lindros affair was the last one that president Ziegler will have to avoid. Ziegler was to have been president until August, but on Monday league general counsel Gil Stein was named interim president. Stein will assume all of the president's duties until the NHL appoints someone to the newly created position of commissioner sometime this fall.
As for the expansion draft, the NHL blew it here, too. For the $50 million apiece they shelled out in franchise fees, Tampa Bay and Ottawa had to choose from a woeful collection of rejects and retreads. "The whole thing makes me sick," said Lightning general manager Phil Esposito, who is charged with selling hockey in virgin territory. Clearly, the secret to success for both teams will be how quickly they can replace their NHL discards with, say, some talented Europeans.
In its April, May and June issues, Golf Digest ran a series of articles by contributing editor Marcia Chambers that portrayed PGA Tour commissioner Deane Beman as a dictator who did not always represent the interests of the players.
Now it seems that two events on the Senior PGA Tour that are sponsored in part by Golf Digest have been, well, deemphasized. The Commemorative, a tournament in Scarborough, N.Y., that has been held in May, may be moved by the Tour to September—when its final round would have to go head-to-head on television against NFL football. The Newport (R.I.) Cup was taken off the 1993 schedule altogether.
Nick Seitz, editorial director of Golf Digest, claims that Beman shuffled the magazine's tournaments in retaliation for its series. "One of their people [from the Tour] told one of our people right after the stories came out that it was," says Seitz. "Deane Beman is a very vindictive man."
Steve Rankin, PGA vice-president for tournament affairs, says the 1993 schedule, including a date for The Commemorative, has not yet been set. He adds that The Newport Cup was canceled because "a number of items were of concern to the Tour and the players." He says that sponsors were informed of the event's demise on April 28.
Regarding the claim that the Tour's actions were a response to the Golf Digest series, Rankin says, "It has nothing to do with that, and that is not the way the PGA Tour does business."
My, Oh, Maillot
It seems that every year swimsuits get smaller and smaller. That is, except for Mike Barrowman's. His is getting larger. For the past few weeks Barrowman, the world-record holder in the 200-meter breaststroke, has been competing in a black and blue Speedo swimsuit that looks like a wetsuit without arms or legs.
The skin-tight suit is made of polyurethane and polyester and is designed to slither through the water with little resistance. "In this sport you train hundreds of hours a year, and to not take advantage of a suit that can take .3 or .4 of a second off your time is crazy," says Barrowman, who worked with Speedo in developing the suit.
The similarity between Barrowman's suit and a traditional woman's model has not escaped fans' attention. Barrowman unveiled the suit on June 13 at the Charlotte (N.C.) UltraSwim, where he broke the meet record in the 100 breaststroke. But the spectators were as vocal about the suit as they were about his performance. "When you have two or three thousand people yelling catcalls and whistling, it's not easy to concentrate," says Barrowman. "The way I look at it, it's worth a shot. If it works, great; if it doesn't, well, I had guts."
The Sport of Kings
This news from England, where the people love horse racing and the royal family loves it more than most:
Mrs Thatcher is expecting. The 4-year-old mare is in foal to Reprimand, who stands at the National Stud in Newmarket. Unlike her namesake, Mrs Thatcher never even ran in a race. Her career ended prematurely because of chronic leg injuries.
One race Mrs Thatcher never ran in is the English Derby at Epsom Downs, the Kentucky Derby of British racing. Dr Devious won this year's English Derby on June 3, and afterward his trainer, Ron McAnally, did what British commoners are forbidden to do—he put his arm around Queen Elizabeth II. "We started talking a lot about John Henry," says McAnally, "and, of course, I put my arm around her. She actually liked it."
McAnally says he realized he was breaching protocol, and his wife, Debbie, acknowledged she was shocked to see her husband becoming familiar with the queen. Debbie says, "No one stopped it though, and she was smiling. It was probably a nice change for her, and they were speaking the same language. And that is the language of thoroughbred horses."
Two weeks after the Derby, Arazi, the latest so-called superhorse to turn out to be not so super, finished fifth in the St. James Palace Stakes at Royal Ascot. His disappointing performance caused his jockey, Steve Cauthen, to say, "Clearly, the horse has a problem. I don't know whether it's mental or it's physical."
Prince Charles and Princess Diana, whose marriage is reportedly a loveless sham, were observed chatting amiably in the royal box during the race. The winner was Brief Truce.
The Warroad to Glory
Every time the U.S. has received an Olympic hockey medal, someone with a connection to Warroad, Minn., has been associated with the effort. The 1956 team, which got the silver medal, featured Gordon Christian, who is from Warroad, and Dan McKinnon, who played for the Warroad Lakers, an amateur team. Warroad's Billy and Roger Christian were on the American squad that won the gold in '60. Henry Boucha, another Warroad native, was on the team that got the silver medal in '72. David Christian, who is Billy's son and Roger's nephew, played for the team that won the '80 gold medal. So the selection of Yale coach Tim Taylor to coach the '94 U.S. Olympic hockey team bodes well for American medal chances in Lillehammer. Taylor played for the Warroad Lakers in '65.
[Thumb Down]To basketball great Bill Russell, who has refused to sign autographs for 28 years, for signing an agreement with a sports memorabilia company to autograph such items as 8x10 glossies, which will sell for $295. As part of the deal, Russell will continue to refuse to sign his name for free.
[Thumb Down]To ABC Sports, for its disjointed coverage of the U.S. Open. It relied too much on taped shots, file footage of previous Opens at Pebble Beach—did Tom Watson or Tom Kite win this year?—and the ill-prepared Brent Musburger.
They Said It
Lou Duva, trainer for heavyweight champion Evander Holyfield, after arriving at Caesars Palace for Holyfield's bout last Friday night with 42-year-old Larry Holmes and seeing 96-year-old George Burns's name on the marquee: "Look at that. They've got the name of Evander's next opponent up already."
Danny Sullivan, Indy Car driver, after his car collided with ones driven by Scott Brayton, Scott Goodyear and Scott Pruett at the Detroit Grand Prix: "I was just hoping to get away Scott-free."
Charles Barkley, after the Philadelphia 76ers traded him last week to the Phoenix Suns for Jeff Hornacek, Tim Perry and Mark West: "Phoenix is not a bad place. I can play golf every day."