Standing in the depths of Reunion Arena last week and pleading
for taxpayer approval to finance a state-of-the-art home for the
Stars and the Mavericks, Dallas mayor Ron Kirk declared that if
the arena proposal is voted down on Jan. 17, "There ain't no
Stars fans are lucky that their team is a lot more resourceful
than their politicians. Dallas, which had the best record
(28-11-8) in the NHL at week's end, has been forced to go to
plan B and beyond this season because of injuries. Through
Sunday frontline forwards Greg Adams (who will be sidelined
until next month), Benoit Hogue, Jere Lehtinen, Joe Nieuwendyk
and Mike Modano, the franchise center, each had missed at least
10 games. Yet the Stars had lost two straight only once.
Dallas has succeeded by improvising. Last month defenseman
Darryl Sydor moved to left wing and scored a hat trick against
the Hurricanes, and another backliner, bruising captain Derian
Hatcher, has played up front on the power play. Even more
important, the Stars have a determined band of veteran role
players whom coach Ken Hitchcock calls "the guys who keep this
team on a sensible path, our glue guys."
That cohesive cast includes checking center Guy Carbonneau, the
best face-off man in the league; winger Dave Reid, who's an
energy burst at even strength and a study in sobriety on the
penalty kill; shot-blocking defenseman Craig Ludwig; smash-mouth
wings Todd Harvey and Grant Marshall; and undersized (5'10", 185
pounds) center Bob Bassen, who's made of scrap metal and ready
to muck. "Little guys like Bassen are playing big for them,"
says Red Wings forward Martin Lapointe.
Shortly after Dallas and Detroit skated to a highly entertaining
3-3 tie last Friday at Reunion Arena, Bassen sat at his stall,
his face bruised in several places, his body hidden under
extensive wraps. "The injuries made each of us more
accountable," he said. "Every player has stepped up to help us
Never was that clearer than in the Stars' showdown with the
Eastern Conference-leading Devils on Jan. 5. Despite dominating
most of the game, Dallas trailed 3-1 with 13 minutes remaining.
Instead of shortening his bench and giving his big-name players
more ice time, Hitchcock kept rolling out four lines, and the
Stars rallied to win 4-3 in overtime. Seven players got points
on Dallas's final three goals. "There was no way we were going
to quit," says Reid. "We just stayed on them. We stuck together
and kept at it."
The Stars have done that all season, resisting every opportunity
to fall apart. For that they can thank their glue.
PLAYING WITH THE MASTER
Like Don Sweeney and Kyle McLaren before him, Bruins rookie
defenseman Hal Gill will never forget his first time. "It was
only a few months ago, and you better believe I was nervous,"
says Gill. "But he just smiled at me and went to work. It gave
The "he" is 19-year veteran and perennial All-Star Raymond
Bourque, and it's no coincidence that in recalling his first
shift as Bourque's partner, Gill, 22, is also recalling his NHL
debut. Over the years Boston has employed a simple strategy for
grooming talented young defensemen: "We play them with Bourque,"
says general manager Harry Sinden. "He relieves some pressure."
Gill, who's 6'6" and 200 pounds, unexpectedly made the team in
training camp, and since then, paired with Bourque, he has been
getting more ice time than anyone had anticipated. Of Boston's
top five defensemen--collectively the backbone of a surprising
team that at week's end was 20-16-8--Gill is the third to learn
under the master's tutelage.
Bourque provides security ("When I get in trouble I pass the
puck to Ray," says Gill) and covers up misplays ("My dead
grandmother would look good playing with Bourque," says Bruins
coach Pat Burns). He also helps rookies cope with the intensity
of the NHL. "The first year can feel like you're on a roller
coaster," says McLaren, an All-Star-to-be who broke in at
Bourque's side during the 1995-96 season. "Ray's so calm, he
smooths things out."
Says Sweeney, who as a rookie in 1988-89 was Bourque's partner,
"He teaches you a day-in, day-out approach to the game that
stays with you. Look at Kyle. He's 20, and he plays like a
veteran. You know Ray had something to do with that."
Bourque is certainly helping Gill. "Right away he told me
nothing comes easy in the NHL--no flip passes, no shortcuts,"
says Gill. "If Raymond Bourque says you don't take shortcuts,
you don't take shortcuts."
BABES IN COYOTELAND
Phoenix center Cliff Ronning, whose fourth child, Ty, was born
in October, says that fatherhood "puts some reality into your
life." But can the Coyotes bear this much reality? In the last
five months the wives of eight players have given birth. Six are
boys. "There are going to be some great tape-ball games in a
couple of years," predicts center Jeremy Roenick, whose wife,
Tracey, got the baby boom started when she delivered Brett last
While the male infants are being groomed for a life of slap
shots and bodychecks--"Our son, Jackson, is barely a month old,
and he already has a hockey stick," Amy Drake, wife of winger
Dallas, said last week--their papas are mellowing. "Definitely,"
says captain Keith Tkachuk, who became a first-time dad with the
arrival of Matthew on Dec. 11. "We don't go out nights and do
the things we used to do."
Some of the newly softened dads, however, went to the movies
recently. Says Roenick, "We saw Titanic, and I had tears rolling
down my face. I'm an emotional guy now."
BUST AND BARGAIN
G Bill Ranford
1997-98 salary: $2,731,630
Veteran starter and one-time Cup winner lost his job to Kolzig.
When he plays, Caps usually lose (2-7-2 at week's end).
G Olaf Kolzig
1997-98 salary: $550,000
Erstwhile backup will appear in his first All-Star Game this
week. When he plays, Caps usually win (19-10-6 through Sunday).