The Canadian Amateur Hockey Association passed a rule recently that forbids the slap shot in the league play of children 13 years old and under. The penalty will be two minutes. Kids, it was thought, were imitating the big guys and forgetting, or never learning, the fine art of stickhandling. Officials feel the rule will help restore finesse to hockey, and if it works this season, the age limit may be raised to 18 next year.
When the landmark agreement between the NBA owners and players association was reached 18 months ago, it was applauded on all sides as the first sensible solution to a labor-management problem in professional sport. Now, it appears, a hitch may be developing.
Under the terms of the agreement, if a player's contract had expired by the end of the 1976-77 season, he could become a free agent if he chose to. Some 30 or 40 players have. The trouble is, nobody's phone is ringing. In fact, there has been so little activity in the free-agent market that Larry Fleisher, the general counsel of the players association, has begun to smell a rat.
"That would be very difficult to show," Fleisher told The Boston Globe recently, "but there is no question that something is going on. It's unconceivable to me that a team that finishes 22nd or 21st or 20th in the league isn't interested in signing or even talking to one of these free agents. Can you tell me that a Jim Cleamons or a Geoff Petrie or a Sidney Wicks couldn't help a club like that?"
The problem, if there is one, is compensation, the NBA version of the old Rozelle Rule. In order to reach their agreement with the owners, the players' association made a temporary concession in the matter of compensation that allows the prevailing method to continue until 1980. According to this method, the team that signs a free agent must give his former team either players, draft choices or money. If the teams cannot agree on amounts, the commissioner steps in. For the time being, therefore, a team that signs a Cleamons might have to give up, say, a Rudy Tomjanovich.
An unidentified official of an Atlantic Division club (probably Ted Turner, the Atlanta Hawks' owner) said recently, "Nobody wants to take the plunge and risk being made an example of by the commissioner. There's no precedent—and that's a little scary."
One wonders why the commissioner, Larry O'Brien, would be interested in "making an example" of one of his owners if the owner were merely transacting business according to the rules.
YOUR MONEY OR YOUR FINGER
Only two Easters ago he was a cute little gray-and-white bunny. Now he is Harvey the Attack Rabbit, 4� pounds of meanness if crossed, but a whiz of an athlete and an effective fund raiser for the ASPCA.