Why Minnesota? That's the question in the aftermath of the May
3 announcement that the financially strapped Jets, who lost
about $8 million this season, are leaving Winnipeg, probably for
the Twin Cities. Sure, Minneapolis has a first-class facility in
the four-year-old Target Center, home of the NBA's Timberwolves,
but could the Jets fill it?
Unlike Winnipeg, where the Jets played in front of nearly full
houses in 41-year-old Winnipeg Arena, Minnesota has a dismal
history of supporting pro hockey. In the late 1970s the North
Stars were on such unsteady ice that the team merged with the
now defunct Cleveland Barons. Then in the early 1990s the North
Stars were drawing so poorly (they averaged 7,838 for the
1990-91 season, 48% below capacity) that they bolted to Dallas,
where they are flourishing.
Timberwolf owner Glen Taylor says he would like to buy a
majority interest in the Jets and bring the team to Minnesota if
the state furnishes $20 million of the $65 million asking
price. And state officials have expressed a desire to have the
NHL return to the Twin Cities. Having the government involved,
however, makes the taxpayers squirm.
``People want a team, but at the same time they've got their
hands on their wallets,'' says KFAN program director Mark
Ginther, whose Minneapolis radio station broadcast the Jets'
last game. ``They love hockey, but at what cost?''
The Quebecois are asking the same question as they eye the testy
negotiations between Nordique owner Marcel Aubut and Parti
Quebecois leader Jacques Parizeau. Aubut, whose team plays in
the ancient and luxury-suite-less Colisee de Quebec and has
lost $10 million over the last year, says it will take a miracle
to keep the Nordiques from relocating. Their most likely
destination is Denver, where Comsat Video Enterprises has made
overtures about buying the team.
Aubut says he will keep the Nordiques in Quebec City if the
provincial government builds an arena with 80 luxury suites and
lets his team play there rent-free. Parizeau, gearing for
Quebec's impending secession, wants a government stake in the
team, which Aubut has refused. As Aubut's May 15 deadline for a
decision from Parizeau nears, the fans in Quebec City joke that
if the Nordiques, who at week's end held a 1-0 lead over the
Rangers in the first round of the playoffs, win the Stanley Cup,
the victory parade will start at Colisee de Quebec and end in
Not since Eddie Johnston and Gerry Cheevers split time for the
Bruins in 1972 has a team won the Stanley Cup without a dominant
No. 1 goaltender. What's more, only twice in the past 24 years
has a rookie keeper (Ken Dryden in '71 and Patrick Roy in '86)
led a team to the Cup. Thus, the wide-open Eastern Conference
playoffs were thrown into further disarray by uncertainty and
inexperience in net. Only the Sabres, with Dominik Hasek, and
the Devils, with Martin Brodeur, can rest easy on their pads. As
for the rest. . . .
Penguins: All that defused a full-fledged goalie controversy
before Pittsburgh's playoff opener last Saturday night against
the Capitals was a relapse of the wrist injury that had
sidelined Tom Barrasso for most of the season. Until then coach
Johnston, he of the dual-goalie past, had refused to commit to
Ken Wregget as his No. 1 netminder, even though Wregget had put
together his best season with a league-leading 25 wins. Until
this season Wregget was considered a career backup, and with a
5-4 loss to Washington in Game 1 of the playoffs, his postseason
record the last seven years stood at 2- 4. If Barrasso, who has
led the Penguins to two Cups, is healthy, expect him to come off
Capitals: Management has confidence in 20-year-old Jim Carey,
but how will the rookie react to playoff pressure? He was pulled
in Game 1 after allowing a couple of soft goals. His
replacement? Olaf Kolzig, another rookie.
Nordiques: Heading into the postseason, Stephane Fiset, 24, and
Jocelyn Thibault, 20, had a combined 21 minutes of playoff
experience, all by Fiset. And despite beating the Rangers 5-4 in
Game 1, Fiset looked shaky at times. A switch to Thibault
wouldn't be a surprise.
Rangers: On the eve of the playoffs coach Colin Campbell
suggested a coin flip would be the best way to choose his
goalie. Apparently leading New York to last year's Stanley Cup
didn't guarantee the job for Mike Richter, who was inconsistent
this season and had to be yanked in four of his final 14 starts.
Veteran Glenn Healy performed admirably down the stretch, but
Richter won the toss for Game 1 and gave up those five goals to
the Nordiques on 33 shots. Unfortunately for Richter, Campbell
has a pocket full of change.
Flyers: If coach Terry Murray was coy about naming his starter
early this month, maybe he was pondering Ron Hextall's 2-7 mark
in the playoffs over the past two years. Hextall, who had 26
saves in a 4-3 overtime victory over Buffalo in Game 1, lets in
bad goals even when he's on top of his game. That means backup
Dominic Roussel, who had better save and winning percentages
this season than Hextall, may see some playing time.
Bruins: When Boston acquired Craig Billington in April,
high-strung first-year netminder Blaine Lacher bristled and
said, ``He can come here, and he can sit on the bench.'' Lacher,
however, found himself on the bench Sunday after giving up four
goals in a 5-0 loss to New Jersey in Game 1.
May 14, 1995
The Other Awards
The major awards aren't much fun to argue about this season. The
Hart Trophy for MVP should go to Eric Lindros of the Flyers, the
Norris Trophy for top defenseman to the Red Wings' Paul Coffey
(page 44) and the Calder Trophy for rookie of the year to
Nordique center Peter Forsberg. In the meantime we extend a few
of our own season-ending awards: Most Improved: Peter Bondra.
The Capitals' right wing built some muscle in the off-season,
and the result was a league-leading 34 goals.
Biggest Disappointment: Pavel Bure. The Vancouver right wing
endured an injury-hampered season in which he scored 20 goals
and finished minus 8.
Shirking the Blame Award: Don Maloney. After dismantling the
Islanders and jeopardizing their future in his two years as
general manager, Maloney fired coach Lorne Henning the day the
Best Bargain: Brodeur. He drew the league's lowest salary
($140,000) while his 19 wins tied Hasek ($2,150,000) for second
best in the conference.
Worst Preseason Trade: The Whalers surrendered three first-round
draft picks to the Bruins for 26-year-old Glen Wesley, a chronic
underachiever who scored two goals all season. Moreover, because
the Whalers missed the playoffs, the Bruins will have a lottery
pick in this July's draft.
Most Welcome Sight: The end of the regular season. Too much
trapping, too much clutching and grabbing and the worst
officiating in memory.