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Free LCS 1997-98
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A Canadian Nightmare in Nagano
by Alex Carswell, Anaheim Correspondent
Anyone searching for reasons as to why Canada will not win Olympic gold in Nagano needs to look no further than team GM Bobby Clarke. Make no mistake: It says here that Clarke has willfully sabotaged the nationalist hopes of his homeland to serve his own selfish ends.
What kind of Canadian would do such a thing? What kind of Canadian would put personal goals and ambitions above the good of Canada's national game and the pride of its people? Only a bad one with no understanding of international hockey. And Bobby Clarke is one bad, bad man without so much as a clue.
Think back to 1972. It was early in the Canada-Soviet series when Clarke, the budding cheap- shot artist, cracked prone Soviet defenseman Alex Maltsev in the head simply for having the nerve to cover him well. Then to Game Six when, with The Boys trailing 1-3-1 in the eight-game fray (and having frittered away a three-goal lead in losing the previous tilt), Clarke hunted down Soviet star Alexander Kharlamov and broke his ankle with a pair of vicious two-handers.
Doesn't move you? In fact, you're swelling with nationalist pride just thinking about the beating that good-for-nothing Ruske took?
Then how about recalling 1973, when Clarke put the deliberate hurt on Walt Tkaczuk, a nice Canadian boy who simply had the bad judgment to play -- fiercely and cleanly -- for the New York Rangers. It was in the playoffs that Clarke took Tkaczuk (his defensive shadow) to the boards and, releasing his top hand, jammed the conveniently untaped butt end of his stick through the cage Tkaczuk was wearing to protect his freshly broken jaw.
The video evidence was unequivocal. Clarke brutally and intentionally rebroke Tkaczuk's jaw in order to escape his close coverage. And it worked.
Ahh, the 70s. But you still don't think Clarke would sacrifice an entire nation just to serve his own needs?
Then think about who -- now a hypocritical team executive interested in suppressing player salaries -- today stands as a staunch defender of Alan Eagleson, even as he is exposed as an exploiter, a thief and a ruiner of countless Canadian hockey lives.
That would be good old Bobby Clarke, the same man who called the Rangers "vultures" for trying to sign Joe Sakic and days later threw $9 million at Chris Gratton.
DEAD MEN SKATING
But the past, as they say, is history. So let's look at the recipe for disaster Clarke has whipped up for Nagano.
Despite their role as a pre-tournament favorite, Canada is doomed due to Clarke's bad judgment and selfish motives in selecting a squad that, among other things, does not include Mark Messier.
Yes, Messier has lost a step or two over his former self. But he remains the premier team leader in hockey history -- perhaps in all of sport -- and his presence will be sorely missed in the cramped locker room quarters of Big Hat Arena. Especially when the team Clarke built to combat the USA's victorious World Cup squad is floundering on international ice.
Why is Messier missing? Simple. Because Clarke is trying to force the mantel of leadership upon his own young star, Eric Lindros.
In foolishly naming Lindros captain of Team Canada -- over better qualified candidates like Ray Bourque, Brendan Shanahan, Scott Stevens, Steve Yzerman and even Wayne Gretzky -- Clarke is trying to erase the leadership failure the Big Train experienced in last year's playoffs. He's trying to toughen Lindros in an international trial by fire, and as a result all of Canada is going to get burned.
Clarke may be able to justify naming Lindros captain over the guys cited above, but he never would have been able to get away with this selfish maneuver had Mess been on the team. So Messier will watch at home, smirking, and maybe even shedding a tear, as his countrymen go down to disastrous defeat.
Of course, it's not just the Messier-Lindros fiasco that will do in Team Canada. It's Clarke's foolish disregard for the conditions under which the tournament will be played.
On an international size sheet, under Olympic rules, Clarke's men will be unable to apply the tactics of physical dominance and thuggery he would have liked to see more of in the World Cup. In fact, we're predicting Lindros will get tossed from at least one game for some level of goonery - - likely his old favorite, the head butt.
But the rest of the team, built to dominate smaller, faster squads on smaller rinks, won't get the job done in Nagano. The likes of Shayne Corson, Keith Primeau and Rob Zamuner will spend as much time trying to catch up with the Modanos, Alfredssons and Selannes of the world as they will in the box, when NHL-style clutching, grabbing and interference is penalized by refs not named Stewart, Fraser or McGeough.
One thing Clarke did do for Team Canada, however, is something he unfathomingly hasn't done for his own Philadelphia team: He gave them the best available goaltending.
In selecting Patrick Roy and Martin Brodeur (along with World Cupper Curtis Joseph), Clarke has given Team Canada a real chance to win the single-elimination tournament. He has also reduced the odds for a repeat of the pitiful whining by those who still say that Mike Richter, more than Team USA, captured the World Cup all by himself. This time, Canada's got their top guns between the pipes -- although objective observers will recall that Cujo was no slouch in the World Cup himself.
Still, we have to think that Roy and Brodeur won't be enough. And that means all of Canada will be joining to revel in the playoff drive, as a disheartened Lindros is unable to cope with another episode in high-profile failure, and Clarke's Flyers go down in flames.
Of course, Clarke could always set things right by naming Team USA stud John LeClair as Philadelphia captain.
But that is then and this is now. So let's all watch as Canada's Nightmare in Nagano unfolds. And when it's all over we can vote to enshrine Bobby Clarke and his good friend Alan Eagleson in a hockey hall all their own: The Hall of Shame.
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