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THE MEN OF 'NOVA
Just hours before Villanova defeated Georgetown in the NCAA final, Al Severance, who coached the Wildcats into the first Final Four in 1939, died of a heart attack at 79 in his Lexington hotel room. Also in the news on that fateful Monday was Jake Nevin, 'Nova's trainer for the last 56 years, who, now ailing, was shown on TV watching the championship game from a wheelchair at court-side. For many years, Nevin, an inveterate practical joker, was Severance's second banana, but, as frequently happens in show biz, he sometimes upstaged the headliner. On one such occasion, the Wildcats were coming back from an away game. The team got out at 30th Street Station in Philadelphia, and Severance struggled to get his bag onto the platform.
"I'm so weak I can barely lift my suitcase," Severance complained.
"It's the end of the season. You're getting tired," Nevin said. He smiled. "You're getting old, Al."
"Maybe you're right, Jake," sighed Severance, and shuffled off to catch the Paoli Local.
Later that night Severance's wife unpacked his things. She wondered why he was carrying six bricks in his suitcase.
Another all-but-meaningless NHL regular season ended Sunday, and we say good riddance. When the NHL's 21 teams had finished with the campaign's 840 games, the 16 clubs that qualified for the playoffs included three that won roughly one-third of their games: the Detroit Red Wings, with a 27-41-12 record; the New York Rangers, 26-44-10; and the Minnesota North Stars, 25-43-12. The Philadelphia Flyers, whose record was 53-20-7, best in the league, had 27 more wins than the Rangers, yet when those two teams play their best-of-five first-round playoff series this week, Philly's only advantage will be an extra home game. That's hardly much of a prize for a team that had a vastly superior season in which it played for keeps in every game.
Is it too much to ask that the NHL limit playoff berths to teams that have .500 records or better? Someday NHL fans will wake up and decide that they're not going to pay to see regular-season games that don't really much matter.