Work in Sports
'A real poor decision'
Flyers' Neilson apologizes for critical remarks
Posted: Thursday April 27, 2000 12:07 AM
VOORHEES, N.J. (AP) -- Roger Neilson on Wednesday apologized for criticizing Flyers team management when he told a Toronto radio station that the team didn't want a cancer patient who is a friend of Eric Lindros behind the bench right now.
Neilson said Tuesday's remarks were made in jest and he didn't mean for it to become a distraction for the Flyers, who open their playoff series against the Pittsburgh Penguins on Thursday.
"We all say things to the media that sometimes don't come out the right way," Neilson said. "In this case, it was entirely my fault. I take complete blame for it. I was expecting a light show, we usually joke around."
Neilson, who is recovering from a stem-cell transplant for bone marrow cancer, met with team officials this week. After consulting with his doctor, the team decided to keep interim coach Craig Ramsay behind the bench and have Neilson assist the team.
Neilson was clearly sorry for his comments.
"I've been devastated by the publicity received," Neilson said. "We should be talking about Pittsburgh and what we're going to do in round two. Instead it's all been about this."
Neilson said the regular host on the Toronto show wasn't there and it caught him a little off-guard.
"It was a real poor decision on my part to crack the joke I did about serious issues. I've always made light of the cancer and the reference to Eric Lindros there was just to poke fun at the common idea that because we're friends, it might have some affect on my coaching here.
"Which is ridiculous. That was all it was. Certainly all of you know me well enough here that I'm not looking for any sympathy for my cancer. I never have and I never will. The whole thing was a joke and unfortunate."
Meanwhile, Lindros said Tuesday that he hopes to be back to play in the playoffs this year. Lindros is recovering from his fourth concussion, but was cleared Tuesday to get back on the ice.
"The way they're playing and the confidence this team has heading into the Pittsburgh series, I look forward -- if everything goes well -- to be able to compete sometime in that third round," Lindros said.
Lindros, who is scheduled to see his doctor in Chicago on Monday, said it's only a matter of time before he can rejoin the team.
"I want to play. The average career is seven, eight, nine years," Lindros said. "When you're on a good team, you compete seven, eight, nine times in the playoffs. I don't want to miss out what would be a large percentage of my career."