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The NHL
Michael Farber
July 19, 1999
No Penalty Called Buffalo escapes discipline for ripping the NHL following the finals
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July 19, 1999

The Nhl

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money for nothing?

In a Span of three days last week, the Rangers committed more than $50 million to sign long-term contracts with free-agent forwards Theoren Fleury and Valeri Kamensky and defenseman Stephane Quintal. But you don't always get what you pay for. Here are the best and worst signings of unrestricted free agents over the last three years.

POSITION, PLAYER, TEAM

YEAR SIGNED

TERMS OF CONTRACT

SKINNY

BEST SIGNINGS

G Arturs Irbe, Hurricanes

1998

One year, $550,000

Signed to back up Trevor Kidd, he won the starting job and led Carolina to the playoffs with a 2.22 goals-against average

F Wendel Clark, Lightning

1998

One year, $1.4 million

Scored 28 goals in 65 games, then was traded to the Red Wings for young goalie Kevin Hodson and a second-round draft pick

F Brett Hull, Stars

1998

Three years, $17 million

After a solid season of two-way play, he scored the Stanley Cup-winning goal

G Ed Belfour, Stars

1997

Three years, $9.8 million

In '97-98 he led the league with a 1.88goals-against average, and last season he won the Cup

C Wayne Gretzky, Rangers

1996

Two years, $8 million

Led New York in scoring the last two seasons and added immeasurable class to the team

WORST SIGNINGS

D Murray Baron, Canucks

1998

Three years, $6.6 million

Was -23 and the club's worst regular defenseman

D Uwe Krupp, Red Wings

1998

Four years, $16.4 million

Played only 22 games before being sidelined with a herniated disk that could end his career

D Steve Duchesne, Kings

1998

Four years, $15 million

Performed so badly that after 60 games Los Angeles bought him out of his contract for $4.3 million

C Mark Messier, Canucks

1997

Three years, $20 million

Has provided only fair offense and has not helped Vancouver become an elite team

G Kelly Hrudey, Sharks

1996

Two years, $2.2 million

Went 20-40-7 with a 3.03 goals-against average in his two seasons in San Jose

No Penalty Called
Buffalo escapes discipline for ripping the NHL following the finals

Brett Hull's controversial Stanley Cup-winning goal for the Stars may prove to be one of the most memorable tallies in NHL history, but the league seems to be trying to forget it. Despite the severe, even scurrilous criticism of league officials by the Sabres following Hull's triple-overtime goal in Game 6 last month, the NHL took no disciplinary action.

"The situation was obviously emotional," Bernadette Mansur, NHL vice president of communications, told SI last week. "What was said in the heat of the moment was said. There's no need to escalate the situation. It's over, and we've moved on."

Such magnanimity in the wake of attacks on the league by Buffalo coach Lindy Ruff and some of his players contrasted sharply with the punishment meted out to Flyers owner Ed Snider and coach Roger Neilson after the first round of the playoffs. Incensed by an elbowing penalty imposed by referee Terry Gregson on Flyers left wing John LeClair with 2:54 left in regulation in Game 6 against Toronto—which led to the power-play goal that won the series for the Maple Leafs—Neilson blasted the officiating at his post-match press conference. Meanwhile, outside Philadelphia's dressing room, Snider delivered a tirade that questioned Gregson's integrity. About 15 minutes later Snider returned for another rant, in case any member of the press had missed the first one. Two days later the NHL fined Snider $50,000 and Neilson $25,000 for violating league bylaws that prohibit public statements criticizing referees.

The Sabres' outbursts were no less incendiary. Ruff angrily confronted commissioner Gary Bettman as he went to the ice to award the Conn Smythe Trophy, demanding a video review of the winning goal; Sabres goalie Dominik Hasek suggested that the goal judge had been either asleep or in the men's room; and Buffalo forward Joe Juneau, after the league said that it did review the goal and explained why it should stand, declared that "the NHL's just trying to cover its ass."

Buffalo general manager Darcy Regier, not surprisingly, defends the Sabres' statements and the league's tolerance of them. "I think Lindy and the players were simply disagreeing with the goal, not attacking the league or a referee or the commissioner," Regier says. His interpretation is as liberal as the NHL's ruling that Hull was in possession of the puck, which validated the goal even though his skate was in the crease.

Less than 48 hours after Game 6, the NHL's Board of Governors changed the crease rule, making crease infringement ineligible for video review. By not fining the Sabres for their verbal abuse, the league wants to make the fuss over Hull's disputed goal go away, too.

Oxygenated Water
New Pick-me-up Is in the Air

The Stars' suffocating defense best explains why they beat the Sabres in six games in the Stanley Cup finals last month, but for a more complete analysis of Dallas's performance, consider this: There was something in the water.

After three games of the Western Conference finals against the Avalanche, Stars center Mike Modano was feeling fatigued. Fortunately, someone told him about Oxenergy, a bottled water that is said to contain about 400% more oxygen than most spring water. Oxenergy can significantly raise one's blood-oxygen levels, and athletes who have drunk it regularly—including members of the NBA's Seattle SuperSonics—say that it helps increase their stamina and repair injured tissue. Desperate to shake his lethargy, Modano ordered two cases to be flown in from Oxyl'Eau, a company in Woodbridge, Ont., in time for Game 4. By the end of the match he was breathing sighs of relief.

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