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March 15, 1993 - Image 15

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The Michigan Daily, 1993-03-15

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The Michigan Daily-Sports Monday- March 15, 1993-Page 7


NHL's quest for cash will leave
purists crying for the old times

by Tim Spolar
Daily Sports Writer
Quack, quack, quack.
This is the soundbite chosen to symbolize a sport
blending speed, finesse and raw aggression?
As unbelievable as it may seem, the National Hockey
League is actually intent on permitting the Walt Disney
Company to name its newly-purchased expansion fran-
chise after one of its most recent movies, "The Mighty
Ducks." In what amounts to one of the most expensive
marketing ploys in Hollywood history (expansion rights
run $100 million a pop, you know), the league's newest
West Coast team will be officially known as The Mighty
Ducks of Anaheim.
To top it off, Michael Eisner's brilliant squad of pro-
moters has deigned that at every home game, the crowd
will be furnished with miniature duck-call devices, to be
used every time the home team lights the lamp.
Quack, quack, quack?
Laughable to some, nauseating to others, the move
represents just one of a series of moves the NHL is tak-
ing to mass market itself in today's money-rich sports
The numbers don't lie. The average National Football
League team has a net worth in the $100 to $110 million
range. The wealthiest hockey club, the Detroit Red
Wings, checks in around $70 million. Successful fran-
chises such as defending champ Pittsburgh Penguins
could not find a buyer a couple years back at the dirt-
AP PHOTO cheap price tag of $35 million.
year, but What really burns the league up is the supersonic as-
ue. cension of the National Basketball Association. Fifteen
years ago, both professional leagues were a minor af-
terthought in the public's eye, dwarfed by their diamond
and gridiron counterparts. The NBA, in fact, riddled by
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Rookie phenom Eric Lindros of the Philadelphia Flyers has skated circles around opponents at times this
the NHL seems intent on leaving its fans' heads spinning with changes designed to mass market the leag

Gretzky, undeniably the greatest player in the history of
the sport, broke onto the scene approximately the same
time Bird and Magic hit the pro hardwood. Marquee
players like Mike Bossy and Denis Savard both had im-
mediate and long-lasting impact on their teams in the
media centers of New York and Chicago, respectively.
And yet the league pondered what was going wrong
as it watched its growth stagnate, while the NBA leapt
The problem, it decided, was its limited television
audience. Its only national TV contract was in Canada,
not in the United States. And the NHL knew that was
where the money was.
So it went out and struck a deal with ESPN. But after
only a few years, SportsChannel America offered a
slightly higher amount in bidding for the next contract,
and the NHL bit. What the league didn't count on was
the effect of SportsChannel's limited scope. Very few
households have access to SportsChannel in comparison
to ESPN. So while league president John Ziegler gloated
over the extra couple of million the new contract gave
the league, hockey was wallowing in anonymity.
Oblivious to this, league officials decided what the
sport needed was an overhaul in how it has always been
played: namely, the exclusion of fighting. The NHL felt
it needed a kinder, gentler brand of hockey if it was to
sell in the U.S.
But the proposed changes go even farther. After
bringing over former NBA executives to help run the
league, the NHL decided that mass marketing neces-
sarily includes stripping the heritage out of the game so
as not to confuse new fans. Included in the options on
the table right now is the renaming of the four divisions.
Madison Avenue types say a standard
"east/central/midwest/west" format will facilitate
populari ty.
While the teams are generally grouped as such right
now in terms of geography, the division and conference
names themselves payhomage to the rich history of the
sport. The Norris Division is named after one of the
sport's first and most powerful ownership families. The
Adams brings to life images of the old tyrant coach/GM,
Jack Adams, who led the Red Wings throughout their
glory years. Would a simple "Midwest" or "East" divi-
sion do the same? Hardly.
What the NHL needs to realize is that enduring suc-
cess will not come from following some prefabricated
formula; just bolt the pieces together and watch the dol-
lars roll in. Sorry, folks, this won't cut it.
What the league needs to do its take&a look inside it-
self and realize one of its best assets is exactly what it is
trying to do without: its tradition. Do football players
grow Super Bowl beards? Is Skydome littered with oc-
topi after a key Blue Jays victory? Do people throw per-
sonal head wear on the court after Shaquille O'Neal tops
40 points?
Hockey's heritage is strong and unique. And interest-
ing. If the NHL wants to throw a bunch of Stepford
skaters on the ice night in and night out, you can bet
your Gordie Howe-autographed puck that Don Cherry
and friends will have more than an unkind word to say
about it.

Continued from page 1
opponents, 228-83, this season. But
his impact is not limited to the of-
fensive end. He is part of the
penalty-killing unit that topped the
CCHA this season, allowing oppo-
nents to score less than 14% of the
time with the man advantage. Fol-
lowing the Wolverines' 7-1 triumph
over Bowling Green Feb. 13, Stiver
was named CCHA Defensive Player
of the Week as part of the club that
successfully nullified 11 Falcon
power-play opportunities.
"It's the part of the game that can
set you above everyone else," Stiver
said. "It takes a lot of pride. It gives
a good chance for Mark and I to take
advantage of the other team if there
is a breakdown."
Even after a game has ended and
he has totaled a couple of points,
few may realize what Stiver has done
because he goes about his duties in a
workman-like way. He's not a
yeller. Nor is he an emotional
speech giver. He does things in a
quiet way. But not a silent one.
"He is a force, but a quiet one,"
Michigan coach Red Berenson said.
"He does the things that go unno-
ticed. You know he will back check.
He will work hard every night. He is
a big part of the senior line, but he's
not flamboyant."
Stiver agrees with his coach's as-
"I don't get much attention," he
said. "I will pop up and surprise op-
ponents. I'm an opportunist."
Stiver proved true to his nature
when he gathered a rebound of a
Cam Stewart shot and flipped the
puck past Notre Dame goalie Brent
Lothrop for his 23rd goal of the sea-
son Saturday and then followed it up
with an arm pump at center ice. It
was a gesture Stiver called "a spur of
the moment thing."
While he may be soft-spoken on
the ice, when he unlaces the skates
and takes off the Michigan sweater,
he is just a "normal guy, pretty laid-
-back." At home where he lives with
fellow seniors Roberts, Ouimet,
David Harlock, Pat Neaton and Chris
* Tamer, Stiver is quite unlike his on-
ice persona.
"When I'm familiar with some-
one, I'm not that quiet," Stiver said.
"It's when I don't know anyone that
I am kind of quiet."
"He is the exact opposite (off the
ice). He is hard to shut up some-
times. He fits perfect with me," said
Quimet, who is rarely one at a loss
for words.
Stiver's mother, Joanne, sees
Dan's behavior as a characteristic of
his confidence.
"He's got a real slippery sense of
humor," she said. "He's not a real
center of attention guy. He just
thinks before he talks. He shows
more aggression on the ice."
Berenson believes the confidence
factor is a reason Stiver's game has
improved so much both between this

would like for him to have one more
year here."
While his scoring may have
slumped, Stiver tries to focus on the
positives of last season.
"I saw some improvement that
others didn't," he pointed out. "I had
some rough luck around the net.
Mark struggled a bit. I improved de-
fensively. It was not a major set-
Stiver has succeeded this year
largely due to his linemates. Since
being put together for the Wolveri-
nes' Nov. 27 game against Western
Michigan, the trio of Stiver, Ouimet
and Roberts has scored a total of 143
points, making it the highest-scor-
ing line on the team.
"I'm playing with two talented
players," Stiver said. "I have got to
give them a lot of credit as well."
"He's the trigger man," Roberts
said. "Our line is plus-30 (going
into the Notre Dame series), but we

tournament gave me a lot of confi-
dence. There are a lot of good memo-
ries from there. It's where I first got
noticed. "
Although he was drafted by the
Spokane Chiefs (who later traded his
rights to the Swift Current Broncos)
to play Junior A hockey, Dan never
considered this an option. His goal
was to get a college scholarship.
"We really wanted to encourage
him,' Joanne said. "There was a
newspaper article and it compared
both leagues (juniors vs. college).
There was no doubt about it because
you ended up with two things out of
Scheduled to graduate in May
with a degree in economics, Stiver
has said he would like to continue
his hockey career. The Toronto
Maple Leafs selected Stiver follow-
ing his freshman year with the
Tom Watt, former Leafs head
coach and current Director of Player
Development for the club, says the
team will give some consideration to
signing Stiver.
"He's got a great shot," Watt
said. "He works hard. I have seen
him three times this year. We are
trying to decide whether to offer him
a contract. We've got 10 seniors
coming out.
Before Stiver can think of skating
in Maple Leaf Gardens, however, he
has one specific goal on his mind -
winning the national championship.
Stiver was a member of the
Michigan team that won the
school's first NCAA tournament
game in 14 years when the Wolver-
ines defeated Cornell in the opening
round before falling to Boston Uni-
versity in the NCAA quarterfinals.
"It is foremost in all six (the se-
niors) of our minds," he said. "It's a
progression. We are constantly re-
minded. Getting there is no longer
our goal; winning is."
The Wolverines began their drive
this weekend with two victories over
Notre Dame in the first round of the
CCHA playoffs. The games marked
the last timethe seniorswill play a
game at Yost and that fact was not
lost on Stiver.
"I've got a lot of memories from
here," he said following Saturday's
win. "The gratitude of the fans has
been great. I'll remember the crowd
getting up for Lake Superior or
Michigan State in a big game. I'm
just grateful for the opportunity to
have played here."

shadowed by NHL teams in the northern U.S.
That all changed, however, with two nearly concur-
rent events. First, the NBA decided that in order to im-
prove its public image, enforcing its lax drug policies
was of utmost importance. Secondly, superstars Magic
Johnson and Larry Bird joined the league. Both players
possessed superior individual skill, were well-spoken
and were amicable to the media. Their best asset, how-
ever, was their ability to improve their entire team.
The resulting shift away from the good of the indi-
vidual to the good of the whole franchise changed the
way the game was played. Teams became consumed
with winning and so did the fans. The league marketed
itself through both broadcast and cable television and the
rest is Nike history.
The NHL, on the other hand, already sported all of
the qualities that the Magic/Bird era brought to basket-
ball. Winning in hockey is, if nothing else, a team effort.
Teams don't win without players sacrificing their bodies
by digging a puck out of the corners or standing up an
offensive rush at the blue line. The Edmonton Oilers
fashioned four Stanley Cup victories in five years with a
slick, passing offense that exemplified the beauty of the
team game.
The league also had its share of superstars. Wayne

Red Wings regain second with victory


just don't score goals. We take pride
defensively. Dan's helped and he's
given everything to the team."
"At first we didn't click too well,
because he had different centermen in
juniors," Ouimet said. "We are a
good 1-2 punch. We're not (Adam)
Oates and (Brett) Hull, but we are
getting better. I know where he's go-
ing to be."
Part of the awareness goes back
to the post-practice puck game.
"If we do it enough, it gets to the
point where it's unconscious,"
Stiver said. "It makes it a lot easier.
The practice gives us awareness."
Dan began to develop his skills
when he picked up the game of
hockey at the age of seven, a mere
two years after learning to skate.
"My dad played and he got me
into it," Stiver said. "All the boys
played it."
Dan's father played with the
Winnipeg Rangers, a Junior A team
in Manitoba, before becoming a
member of the Manitoba Bisons. As
a member of the Canadian Air Force
for six years, the elder Stiver partici-
pated on some base teams as well,
but did not overdose young Dan with
"We never pushed him," John
Stiver said. "He just went out and
played for the best team he could
make it on. He really enjoys the

DALY CITY, Calif. (AP) - The
Detroit Red Wings are concerned
only about one thing at this point -
racking up wins.
"We have to win the majority of
our games this trip to improve or
even maintain our position. Chicago
never seems to lose," Detroit coach
Bryan Murray said yesterday after
the Red Wings beat the San Jose
Sharks, 4-1.
Chicago, of course, is the
Blackhawks - the team Detroit has
set its sights on.
With the victory Sunday, the Red
Wings took over second place in the
Norris Division, two points ahead of
Toronto. They remain three points
behind the elusive Blackhawks, who
beat Edmonton, 5-4, in overtime
The Red Wings are now 4-1 in
their last five games and 37-26-9
overall. The victory over the Sharks
was the fourth game in a five-game
trip that ends Tuesday in Milwaukee
against Washington.
Even Sharks coach George
Kingston said Detroit is on the spot
for wins.
"We knew coming into the game
that it was a game where we were
going to be challenged," Kingston
said. "They are in a must-win situa-

The Sharks, who have lost three
straight, are now 10-58-2. With only
14 games remaining their second
season, they stand to fare worse than
their inaugural record of 17-58-5.
Paul Ysebaert and Dallas Drake
had a goal and an assist apiece.
Ysebaert, who just returned this
week after a serious bout with the
flu, scored the final goal of the day
at 11:24 of the third period.
"These last two games I've re-
ally felt good," said Ysebaert, who
dropped some weight while he was
ill. "Today I felt real comfortable."

Drake opened scoring for the Red
Wings when he slipped the puck
around fallen Sharks goaltender Jeff
Hackett at 4:25 of the first period.
Keith Primeau skated in the puck
and slammed it past Hackett before
stumbling over the goal at 18:14 of
the first to give Detroit a 2-0 lead.
The Sharks cut the score to 2-1 at
9:22 of the second, when Kelly
Kisio grabbed a pass and whirled
around 180 degrees before scoring
out in front of Detroit goaltender
Vince Riendeau.
Nicklas Lidstrom made it 3-1 for
Detroit at 5:05 of the third.



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