Sunday, February 2, 2003

NHL All-Star notebook

Ozolinsh skips All-Star skills competition

By Mark Long
The Associated Press

SUNRISE, Fla. - Sandis Ozolinsh skipped the All-Star skills competition Saturday night because he was "uncomfortable" returning to South Florida following a midweek trade to Anaheim.

The seven-time All-Star defenseman also did not show up for a mandatory media availability session Saturday morning and could get fined, but a team spokesman said Ozolinsh will play in the All-Star game Sunday.

"He's still kind of stunned from the trade," team spokesman Alex Gilchrist said. "And he's uncomfortable about coming back here. If the game wasn't here, he would be here."

The Florida Panthers traded Ozolinsh to the Mighty Ducks on Thursday as part of a four-player deal. The trade was criticized because it came as the league's All-Star weekend began in South Florida and Ozolinsh's had been the team's only representative until center Olli Jokinen was added as a replacement.

Ozolinsh had planned to compete in the skills event wearing a generic jersey, but then decided to skip the competition altogether. Although he is now in the Western Conference, Ozolinsh will start for the Eastern Conference team but will be introduced as a member of the Mighty Ducks, Gilchrist said.



Don't count Martin Brodeur as someone who wants to add more meaning to the NHL All-Star game.

The New Jersey Devils goalie was asked if he would be in favor of having the winning conference receive home-ice advantage in the Stanley Cup finals - an idea that is being debated in baseball.

Brodeur did not like the thought that someone from the Atlanta Thrashers, New York Rangers, or Buffalo Sabres could be the reason why the first-place Devils faced Game 7 in places such as Detroit, Dallas or Vancouver.

"In the last period of the game and you have to rely on those guys in last place to have home-ice advantage? I don't know if that would right," Brodeur said.

Last month, baseball owners approved such a plan that would give more importance to its midseason game by linking it to home field in the World Series. It needs approval from the players before it could go into effect.

One difference between baseball and hockey in that regard is home field in the World Series alternates each year between the American and National Leagues. Home-ice advantage in the Stanley Cup finals is determined by the team with the best record.



NHL commissioner Gary Bettman is giving up his job, for one day at least.

One fan will be given the NHL "7th Man Award" and serve as commissioner for a day during the Stanley Cup finals.

Each of the 30 NHL teams will select one local winner until one person is chosen as the big winner. The 7th Man Award carries with it a trip to New York to become "Commissioner for a Day" and then fly to Game 1 of the Stanley Cup finals to drop the ceremonial first puck.

"The notion of having each team pick its most passionate fan and letting them have my job for a day so I can take the day off is a fun way to celebrate our fans," Bettman said.

The contest runs from Feb. 2-March 1. Fans can enter by logging on to or team Web sites and submitting an essay of 250 words or less describing why they should be the winner for their favorite team.

The final winner will be chosen by a panel consisting of Bettman, television announcers John Davidson, John Saunders, Linda Cohn, and Pierre McGuire, and entertainer Denis Leary.

This award culminates the NHL's Year of the Fan campaign that has run all season.



San Jose's high-scoring Teemu Selanne says he laughs when he sees NHL highlights from the 1980s because the equipment for goaltenders has gotten so much bigger.

"When you try to shoot, it has to be an absolutely perfect shot to go in because there's no room," Selanne said. "A lot of players just hope they're going to get the rebound. They don't expect the shot is going to go in."

Selanne favors a rule change reducing the size of goaltender equipment.

"A better chance to score is going to be better for everybody - except the goalies," he said. "They like a 1-0 game. They're the only ones."

Dallas goalie Marty Turco said shooters shouldn't complain.

"I say put them in there for five minutes and they'll see how minimal our equipment is, and how easy it is to score," Turco said. "I wouldn't say there's a shortage of goals. Markus Naslund has 35 already. They should pay more attention to a shooter like him. Then they'll be all right."

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No. 7 Kentucky 87, South Carolina 69
Miami 57, Buffalo 55
Ohio State 65, Northwestern 52
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Ky. girls games
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NHL All-Star notebook
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NASCAR notebook

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