- TOP PLAYERSOffensePABLO S. TORRE | August 20, 2012
- TAMPA BAY buccaneersENEMY lines WHAT A RIVAL COACH SAYSJune 28, 2012
- Faces in the CrowdJune 11, 2001
It went like this: Red Wing General Manager Ted Lindsay, who has been instrumental in the club's rejuvenation, signed free-agent Goaltender Rogatien Vachon away from the Los Angeles Kings. Under league rules the Red Wings had to compensate the Kings with one or more players. When the two clubs could not get together on what was fair, an arbitrator was brought in. Judge Edward Houston, a former minor league hockey official who knows the game and its players.
Vachon is one of the two or three best goaltenders in the league. He is about to turn 33 but has several more good years ahead of him. Lindsay reportedly signed him to a $1.5 million, five-year contract. In return, the Red Wings offered their own starting goalie, Jim Rutherford—a fine player—and Left Wing Bill Lochead, another regular. The Kings insisted on McCourt, the Wings' leading scorer last season with 33 goals and 39 assists.
Judge Houston ruled in favor of Los Angeles, giving them McCourt as compensation, which crippled the youth movement of the Red Wings. A shocked Lindsay said, "This is the steal of the century. If Dale decides to go, he'll haunt me for 15 years. He's the equivalent of Guy Lafleur now and he'll rewrite the record books. Compensation is not supposed to be punishment to the acquiring team. This is punishment. It's a thrashing every day for the rest of your life."
It is also punishment for Red Wing fans and for McCourt, who loves Detroit and says he may fight the ruling with a lawsuit against the league, the Red Wings and the Kings. ( Lindsay says it is the first time in his life he will be happy to be sued.) The whole thing may wind up in the courts for an entire season, cheating McCourt of a year's play.
Obviously none of this is good for the game, which is why NHL President John Ziegler should have stepped in and nixed the Wings' original deal with Vachon when it became apparent that the Kings' demands might be met. Detroit is one of the few American cities where NHL attendance was on the rise. McCourt's departure may change that.
If baseball attendance in Boston reaches 2.3 million this season, as Red Sox ticket manager Arthur Moscato predicts, Fenway Park will have been utilized to an astonishing 85% of capacity for the 81-game home schedule, far and away the highest percentage in the history of the major leagues. (If the Dodgers draw 3 million this season, for example, they will have achieved 66% of capacity.) Fenway, which John Updike once called that "lyric little bandbox of a ball park," seats only 33,502. To draw 2.3 million, the club will have to average 28,395, which they are very nearly doing. As the stretch drive reaches its peak, the club anticipates sellouts for nearly every game. What makes Boston's attendance figures all the more remarkable is that the club televises more than half its home games.
Moscato, who has been in the Red Sox' ticket office 33 years, remembers when times were quite different and they had to struggle to draw 700,000. Things changed with the Impossible Dream pennant of 1967, the year Carl Yastrzemski won the Triple Crown. "When we drew more than 1.9 million in 1968, I thought we had reached the ultimate. I never believed we could draw 2 million in this little ball park. But we did last year, and we'll better that this year."
Support for the team comes from all levels. Humberto Cardinal Madeiros of Boston was at the Vatican last week participating in the selection of the new Pope. Coming from an important meeting. Cardinal Madeiros asked a fellow prelate, "How did the Boston Red Sox make out today?"
"They won. Your Eminence."