Work in Sports
Flyers coach thinks team has other reasons for decision
Posted: Thursday April 27, 2000 01:17 AM
PHILADELPHIA (AP) -- Roger Neilson, recovering from a stem-cell transplant for bone marrow cancer, desperately wanted to coach the Philadelphia Flyers for the second round of the NHL playoffs.
But general manager Bob Clarke, along with Neilson's doctors, decided Neilson isn't ready, so Neilson will only assist interim coach Craig Ramsay when the Flyers-Penguins series begins this week.
"I am very disappointed," Neilson said Monday after he met with Clarke at practice. "Although I had hoped to come back as head coach, I am completely respectful of the doctors' opinions."
Dr. Isadore Brodsky said he did not want the 65-year-old Neilson returning to full-time coaching at this point.
"Although Roger is anxious to return as head coach, we need to be sure that he does not take on too much at this time and in any way adversely impact his recovery," Brodsky said.
Neilson wanted to rejoin the team for the first round, but Clarke and Brodsky ruled that out. Neilson left for Dallas on April 14 because he felt he was a distraction.
But his true feelings slipped out in an interview today with a Toronto all-sports radio station, when he said, "I don't think they want a cancer patient who is a friend of Eric Lindros behind the bench right now."
Clarke said he was pleased Neilson would be helping Ramsay and called Neilson a "great asset."
"The doctors said it best. He's got to get healthy," Flyers forward Mark Recchi said.
Ramsay said he didn't think the team's solid play lately had anything to do with the decision to keep Neilson from leading the team. Under Ramsay, the team overcame a 15-point deficit to capture the top seeding position in the conference, then beat Buffalo in five games in the opening round of the playoffs.
"I think the decision was made in the best interest of Roger," Ramsay said. "This organization wants Roger to be healthy. We want him to work. We want him around. We want his insight and his enthusiasm."
This has been a season of upheaval for the Flyers. The team has had to deal with a fight between Clarke and former captain Eric Lindros, who has been out of the lineup recovering from a concussion.
Ramsay and several players said the team is focused on the playoffs.
"We showed in the first round how we were able to put this stuff aside and just play hockey," forward John LeClair said.
"I don't think it's been uncomfortable for the team," Ramsay said. "The team has played well. Roger's a very important part of what we've accomplished so far. Everybody understands that."
Neilson left the team Feb. 19 to pursue aggressive treatment of the rare form of bone marrow cancer he was diagnosed with in December.