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  Reader Mail
by Michael Dell, editor-in-chief

Welcome to the rebirth of the LCS Hockey letters page. Back in the day, we used to always answer reader mail at the end of each issue. Over the years that practice went the way of the Whale because of a combination of our schedule and the vast amount of mail we received. We always answer mail, but going through and picking out letters to use in a column got to be a pain. But we're going to give it another shot. And you know why? Because we care about you, our valued readers... that's why! So keep those letters coming.

Dear LCS, are you guys nuts? Where is Arthur Fonzarelli? How can you possibly have the Top 50 sitcom characters of all-time without the Fonz? He was the definition of the word "cool". Could you please explain to me this glaring oversight?

Ed Herd
Chicago, Illinois

LCS: Ed, I knew it was only a matter of time before the letters started pouring in about the Fonz. Sure enough, yours was just one of many.

Granted, Fonzie is a television icon. And he was quite cool... for the first few seasons. But by the time "Happy Days" ended its 10-year run (1974-84), it was one of the lamest shows in television history. Fonzie was, like, a 40-year-old guy still walkin' around in his leather jacket and trying to act like he was cool. It was sad. Sadder still was when he dropped the jacket and grew a beard and tried to be a teacher at Jefferson High. That's weak.

The Fonz was the perfect argument for dying young. If "Happy Days" had only run for six years and went off the air when Richie left the show in 1980, the Fonz, and probably Richie for that matter, would have made the countdown. But the last four seasons of the show were so repugnant, that it completely destroyed any fondness I had for it.

And truth be told, even in the days of Richie the show wasn't exactly one of the best examples of the genre. It often fell back on formulaic plots and generic endings. It also used a number of hackneyed TV traditions best left off screen; such as the concept of flashback episodes -- where clips from old shows are run in favor of new writing; the fish-out-of-water premise -- taking the core characters out of their normal environment for no reason other than to have wacky adventures; introducing new recurring gimmick characters for cheap jokes; and, the worst sin of all, mixing serious themes into the sitcom format.

All things considered, "Happy Days" was a brutal show. The only thing that saved it was the strong performances of Ron Howard and Henry Winkler. But in the end, even their brilliance isn't enough to overcome the weight of the show's mediocrity.

Your list has one huge omission. No, it's not Grant Fuhr. You missed Dan Fielding from "Night Court." That character has proven to be a man that all men can base their life around. He is a hero and my inspiration. I often lie awake at night watching old reruns of "Night Court." When the Dan speaks, I listen. His every word is holy and right.

Troy McClure
Parts Unknown

LCS: Dan was an okay guy and all, but too much of his humor was one note. And cheap one note at that. If I had to take someone form Night Court, it would probably be Harry's dad, Buddy. "But I'm feeling much better now." That was always a good line. But overall, "Night Court", while it had its moments, wasn't really one of the great shows. It dealt more in caricatures than characters.

What! No Arnold Ziffle? Mr Haney? Eb? His brother had a brooder, ya know. His sister had a blister!.

Man, what an oversight.

Joe Greco
Parts Unknown

LCS: The characters of "Green Acres" were given some consideration, but just couldn't quite make the cut. Perhaps the Top 50 was best summed up by LCS associate Todd Teacher. Upon hearing that Juan Epstein was only ranked 43rd, Todd replied, "That's a tough list." Amen to that, brother.

If I ever see that leprechaun, I'll kick his little Irish nads to his gizzard. Me thinks he need be a little less cryptic in regards to clues. C'mon, evil foes surround us and I've tried pig for Karmanos and then for you know who... and a fart is the only evil wind I know etc. etc.


Ron LaChapelle
Parts Unknown

LCS: It's astounding the number of people that can't decipher the Lost Issue limerick. It's not really that tricky. Don't make things more complicated than they are. I'd break it down line-by-line for you, but then that would be too easy. And after all, the issue needs to be lost, not merely misplaced. Just keep in mind the mysterious directory name is made up of three items and a total of 13 letters. And while Karmanos is a pig, he's not the evil foe in question. That distinction belongs to another hockey publication. C'mon, Ron, I know you can do it buddy! Keep hope alive!

Where is he at present, I understand he was sick?

Thanks for your help,

Barry Sutton

LCS: While Gary Coleman is our spiritual advisor, we don't actually keep in touch with him. I haven't heard anything about him being sick, tho'. Last time I saw him was this past summer when he did a baseball commercial for ESPN along with Dweezil and Ahmet Zappa.

Someone has told me Shane Doan is no longer affiliated with the Coyotes. Can you provide me his status? Thanks for the help and I really enjoy LCS...

Chris Malitsky
Parts Unknown

LCS: Unless something nutty happened that I missed, Shane Doan is still affiliated with the Coyotes. He's just playing for their minor league club, the Springfield Falcons of the AHL. At the time of this writing, Doan had 16 goals and 33 points in 31 games with Springfield.

Where is Patrick Lalime these days? Did he ever come to terms with the Penguins? And what about Petr Skudra, is he better than Lalime?


Jerry Hubbard
Fernwood, Ohio

LCS: First off, Patrick Lalime still has not come to terms on a new deal with the Penguins and remains their property as a restricted free agent. A few weeks back Lalime signed a minor-league deal with the Grand Rapid Griffins of the IHL. In 13 games with Grand Rapids, Lalime is 3-6-3. That may not sound too impressive, but he is sporting a goals-against average of 2.10 and a .931 save percentage. He's played one fewer game than the minimum requirement to rank among the league leaders, otherwise he would be near the top in both categories.

As for who's better, Lalime or Petr Skudra, it's not even close. Lalime is the man. The kid is just a good goaltender. At 23, he still has a chance to be a star in the NHL before his career is over. He just has to stay focused on making it back to the big show. I don't blame him for not signing with the Penguins over the summer. They only offered him a two-way deal, meaning he would make two different salaries depending on whether he was playing in the NHL or the minors. Considering all he did for the team last season, that was a slap in the face. And Lalime knew Tom Barrasso and Ken Wregget were going to be the top two goalies in town, so it was obvious he was going to start the year in the minors. That might have been acceptable with a normal contract, but not a two-way ticket. So Lalime eventually settled for a minor-league deal with Grand Rapids for pretty much what the Penguins were offering on the two-way end of their contract, reportedly around $60,000. Except when Wregget went down with a back injury, Lalime wasn't around to step in and be Barrasso's backup. That right there makes his holdout look like a bad decision. But it was more of a pride thing than money.

That backup job fell to rookie Petr Skudra. The 25-year-old Latvian netminder came to training camp as pretty much a walk-on and earned a contract. Skudra is more acrobatic than Lalime, but he's not a better goaltender. In fact, Skudra's flexibility and reflexes are on par with guys like Curtis Joseph and Grant Fuhr. But while he has the tools, he doesn't have the toolbox to put 'em in. Skudra lacks the fundamentals. His angle play is brutal. He plays way too deep in his net and relies solely on his reflexes to stop shots. It's not uncommon to see him with his back against the crossbar when he makes a save. That style can catch a team by surprise the first time through the league, but it wouldn't last. As soon as he faced a club for the second time, or played a team with some truly talented shooter, Skudra would have been ripped up. With Wregget and Barrasso now healthy, Skudra has returned to Kansas City of the IHL for more seasoning.

Unlike Skudra, what makes Lalime so great is his technique. He's absolutely perfect in his butterfly positioning. If you like goaltending, it's a joy to watch this kid play. When he goes down in the block it's butterfly perfection... pads spread low, stick blade on the ice, arms in, and torso upright. And he's aggressive in challenging shooters, he doesn't just sit back in his crease and wait for the shot.

Lalime got a bad rap at the end of last season because he had a few terrible outings in a row. But by that time he was just exhausted. At one point he started 19 straight games and then had a severe bout with the flu that cost him ten pounds off an already slight frame. Throw in a ridiculous Penguin defense that was giving up nearly 40 shots a night, and even Patrick Roy would have shown signs of fatigue. Butterfly goaltenders, since so much of their game is based on angle play and going down, need a tight defense in front of them that won't allow the extra pass that hangs them out to dry. The Penguins just didn't provide that for Lalime last season. When they did, he was as good as it gets. If Lalime was playing this year with Kevin Constantine's new and improved defense-first Penguins, he would be rolling up big numbers and everyone would be talking about the next future star netminder. As it is, he's trapped in the minors riding a bus every other day with no end in sight. Here's hoping he gets a second chance at stardom. He deserves it.

Hey LCS, let's just say that there's this stack of bricks with five bricks in the top row and three more bricks in each successive row down to the ground. Like, if there are, oh I don't know, 33 rows in all, how many bricks are there in the whole stack?


Joanne Boscarino
Mt. Pleasant, Pennsylvania

LCS: 1749 bricks.

I need information on how to become an NHL referee. Thanks for your time.


Nita Samuels
Parts Unknown

LCS: That's like the best straight line in the world, but some jokes are just too easy. I have no idea how someone would go about becoming an NHL referee. But I suspect you'd have to go about it the same way you do any other gig: start at the bottom and work your way up. This isn't something you can just go and do on the spur of the moment.

As difficult as it is to believe, there are actually people out there who dream about being an NHL referee and work at it as hard as the players with similar aspirations. My advice would be to start at a local level doing high school games and pick-up leagues and whatnot, then move up to the collegiate level or semi-pro ranks. After a few years you might catch someone's eye and stockpile enough experience to earn a tryout with one of the more established minor leagues. From there I'd try and get in the AHL, since the majority of NHL officials are culled from the AHL ranks. Then you're just a step away.

The NHL monitors the progress of officials in the various levels of hockey and has a program to help them develop. I'm not sure if he still does it, but former NHL linesman Will Norris used to be the coordinator of the development program. Back in 1996, the league had 23 officials in the program. Norris would travel around and chart their progress. He looked to evaluate the subjects in four vital areas: Physical ability, Skating, Mentality, and Concentration. So pay close attention to those aspects of your job.

I just can't understand why anyone would want to be an NHL referee. It is, without doubt, the hardest job in sports. You just can't win. Everything you do angers half the people involved. And you're out there all by yourself. It's not like the NFL where there's 10 of you that all huddle after every call. You could be calling a great game, but if you miss one hook you're a bum. It's just the nature of the business. It's hard to explain just how difficult a job it is, at any level of competition, unless you've actually ever done it. My advice to you, my friend, is forget about being a ref. Instead, quit your job and join the circus... carny folk are good people.

Trying to find out the exact measurements of an official NHL rink and I'm having trouble. Can you help?

Paul Epstein
Phoenix, Arizona

LCS: The standard NHL rink is 200 feet long and 85 feet wide. If you need more detailed descriptions of each and every aspect of the ice surface, check out an official NHL rulebook. We used to have one but it was lost when, after watching a Cheech and Chong movie, I accidentally tried to smoke it. However, we do have a rulebook online in our NHL Archive.

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