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Scorecard December 8, 1997
Edited By Jack McCallum and Richard O'Brien
December 08, 1997
Canadian Olympic Hockey...LIU Gets Its Runuppance...Other Li'l Guys...De La Hoya's Trail of Trainers... Preseason Basketball Foes Raise Questions...Charting Pippen
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December 08, 1997

Scorecard December 8, 1997

Canadian Olympic Hockey...LIU Gets Its Runuppance...Other Li'l Guys...De La Hoya's Trail of Trainers... Preseason Basketball Foes Raise Questions...Charting Pippen

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Pete's Priorities

List Pete Sampras, the world's top-ranked tennis player for the last five years, as doubtful for future Davis Cups. At last week's Cup final between the U.S. and Sweden in Göteborg, he suffered a slight tear in his left calf muscle and was forced to default in the third set of his opening-day match with Magnus Larsson. He left the arena in a wheelchair. According to Sampras, the injury resulted "from an accumulation of wear and tear," though his 17 tour dates in 1997 were the fewest of any player ranked in the Top 10. "If I want to play another five to seven years on tour, I'll have to reduce my number of events, even if my ranking suffers," Sampras, 26, said after watching Sweden clinch the championship.

Throughout his career, Sampras has been a steadfast Davis Cup participant. But last week he questioned making a priority of an event that generates so little buzz at home. Citing his Cup heroics against Russia in 1995, when he won all of the U.S. team's points in a 3-2 victory, Sampras said, "It was one of my best efforts ever, but there wasn't an invitation to the White House. There weren't the congratulations I get when I win a Grand Slam."

New Order in Canada

If you gloss over currencies, unemployment rates, systems of government, the death penalty and the weather, this is the difference between the U.S. and Canada: USA Hockey announced 17 of the 23 members of the U.S. team for the upcoming Olympics in a press release last month; the entire Canadian squad was named last Saturday in an 18-minute bilingual wingding that was covered live by four television networks and included fireworks, spotlights, a video display and the stirring strains of Aaron Copland's Fanfare for the Common Man. Prime Minister Jean Chrétien couldn't make it to the Corel Centre gala in Ottawa because he was at an official dinner with Fidel Ramos, president of the Philippines. Chrétien was thus spared from explaining just who the heck Rob Zamuner is.

For the uninitiated, and even for some Canadians, Zamuner is a 28-year-old left wing for the Tampa Bay Lightning, about as close as you can get to flying under the radar in the NHL. At week's end he had nine goals and two assists in 25 games this season. He has never scored more than 17 goals in any of his six NHL seasons. He is a strong checker and an accomplished penalty killer, which explains that common man stuff. Most critically, Zamuner is not, nor has he ever been, Mark Messier.

The question on Canadians' lips on Sunday morning: Had Bob Clarke, the general manager of their Olympic team, and his assistants, Bob Gainey and Pierre Gauthier, been sniffing Zamboni fumes when they chose Zamuner over Messier? Messier might look all of his 36 years, but Canada had turned to that chiseled face for comfort in hard times. He had played on winning Canada Cup teams in 1984, '87 and '91. When U.S. defenseman Chris Chelios was asked if Canada should pick Messier, he replied, "In a heartbeat."

In the end, though, the selection committee found it hard to cast Messier, the peerless leader, in a third-line role better suited to Zamuner. Wayne Gretzky, an aging icon who made the cut, has learned to back off a little, but Messier can't slip into a less-aggressive persona. Clarke was also heeding the lesson he learned in 1996 from the U.S., which defeated Canada in the three-game finals of the World Cup primarily because of the play of goalie Mike Richter and a group of fresh, robust twentysomething forwards. While Clarke was solicitous of Messier—he called him a few hours before the ceremony to break the news—he left no doubt about the direction Canada was taking when he named 24-year-old Eric Lindros of the Philadelphia Flyers as captain.

"Lindros is the young horse we want to ride now," Clarke said. "Our young players are 23 to 26, with three, four, five years' experience in the league. It's time for that age group to step forward."

Impenetrable Defense
Because of a thick fog that descended on the field, Lincoln United and Worksop Town were forced to suspend play in the 13th minute of their English Unibond League soccer match in Lincolnshire recently. Word of the stoppage failed to reach Worksop goalkeeper Jamie Holmshaw, who, lost in the mist, stayed on the pitch for 10 minutes after everyone else had gone to the sidelines. Said Holmshaw, "I just thought, We're doing well here. They're not attacking much."

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