The Philadelphia Eagles' rookie coach, Ray Rhodes, got terrific performances from free agents he plucked off the discard pile and earns coach of the year. And if you have any doubt about Green Bay Packer quarterback Brett Favre's selection as MVP, just ask: Where would the Pack be without him?
A Junior Mistake
When the host U.S. team opened the World Junior Hockey Championship last week with losses to champion Canada (expected, but not by a 6-1 score) and Ukraine (an unexpected 4-3 setback), questions arose: Was the best 19-and-under U.S. team on the ice? And where was forward Sean Haggerty?
Though he might be America's premier junior sniper, Haggerty, a native of Rye, N.Y., wasn't invited to play for the U.S. in the 10-day tournament, which was held at six sites in Massachusetts. While the Americans were going 2-3 and missing the medal round as a result of a 3-0 loss to Sweden on Monday, Haggerty, the Toronto Maple Leafs' second pick in the 1994 NHL draft, was tearing up the Ontario Hockey League. His 40 goals for the first-place Detroit Whalers led the league at week's end. Last May he helped Detroit win the OHL title, and afterward he was the top goal scorer in the Memorial Cup, the round-robin tournament for Canadian junior league champs. "It's a disgrace he wasn't chosen for the U.S. team," says Whaler coach Kerry Kerch. "If Sean were Canadian, he could have played for Canada and been one of the top players on that team."
Maybe the snub of Haggerty has to do with his snubbing of junior team coach Jack Parker—Parker, also the Boston University coach, tried in vain to lure Haggerty to BU. And maybe it has something to do with hockey politics. U.S. amateur hockey officials have questioned whether Haggerty is a team player. The same officials have tended to favor NCAA and prep players over those in Canada-based junior leagues; this year only three junior players made the 23-man U.S. roster.
With such mind-sets, is it any wonder the U.S. junior team has won only two medals, both bronze, in the 19 years of the world championships? Or that the national team has averaged a seventh-place finish in the Olympics since winning the gold medal in 1980? "A lot of things went into our decision," said USA Hockey's national teams director Art Berglund. "We're not out to screw a kid. We just didn't feel Sean was ready."
All too often, neither are the U.S. teams.
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