NHL president John Ziegler habitually denies that his league is beset by too much fighting. But just take a look at the classified ads in The Hockey News. There in the video section are such enticing offers as "Brand New Part 4 Hockey's Bloodiest Fights & Knockouts." Or: "165 Hours of Good Quality hockey fights which includes 12 hrs. from '87/'88." Another recent ad, this one for 126 hours of such footage, claims to have two hours on noted New York Ranger goon Chris Nilan.
Last week hockey-fight aficionados got two more lowlights. Thursday night in Philadelphia, Flyer right wing Rick Tocchet gouged New York Islanders defenseman Dean Chynoweth's left eye during a fight. (On Monday, when the vision in Chynoweth's eye was still very blurry, Tocchet was suspended for 10 games.) On Sunday night in Madison Square Garden, David Shaw, a defenseman for the Rangers, knocked out Pittsburgh Penguin center Mario Lemieux with a vicious slash to the chest early in the third period. The sight of the NHL's leading scorer lying facedown on the ice for nearly five minutes was frightening, but fortunately Lemieux was able to leave the game under his own power. The rest of the game, though, was marred by fighting. (Shaw faces an NHL hearing this week.)
All of this must be a great delight to the traffickers in hockey fight films.
When the world champion Los Angeles Dodgers went to Washington to be received at the White House by President Reagan last week, pitcher Orel Hershiser took a side trip to Redskins Park. The first player Hershiser ran into was quarterback Doug Williams. And what did the World Series MVP and the Super Bowl MVP say to one another that day? "We just talked about our Disney commercials," Hershiser said. "Doug asked me how many takes mine took."
Jack Adelman, an outdoorsman in Madison, Neb., who makes equipment for waterfowl hunters, has come up with a part decoy, part retriever called Robo-Duck. The new gizmo looks pretty much like a wooden decoy, but Robo-Duck, which is hollow and water-tight, is made of fiberglass and a plastic known as PVC. Inside there's a motor that can make it go as fast as 10 mph; it's operated by a remote-control device similar to the ones used for model boats. Robo-Duck also has two 20-inch steel "fingers" that can be manipulated to pick up downed waterfowl from the surface.
Robo-Duck comes with a big bill—$1,250. "That might sound like a lot, but we don't have a very large margin of profit," says Adelman, whose Duck & Goose Hunting Specialties Company also makes portable duck blinds. "Besides, a good hunting dog nowadays goes for $500 to $800. Then you've got veterinary bills, your food and upkeep costs. Heck, you'd spend $1,250 on a dog in a year."
Adelman has sold about 100 Robo-Ducks to hunters from as far away as Switzerland. "The only complaint I've ever heard was from a hunter who said he liked to talk to his dog," says Adelman. "Well, you can talk to a Robo-Duck, too. It just won't lick your face."
Not too long ago, Bob Sundvold, an assistant basketball coach at Missouri, received a late-night phone call from a Tiger booster who wanted to chat about Mizzou's prospects for the season. Sundvold patiently talked with the man for about half an hour about freshman Anthony Peeler and such returning players as Greg Church and Gary Leonard. With the hour approaching midnight, the coach decided that enough was enough.
"Listen," said Sundvold, "there are things in the world that are more important than Missouri basketball."
"Like what?" asked the fan.
"Well, Hurricane Gilbert, for instance," said Sundvold.
To which the fan replied, "Can he play?"
A POSITIVE STEP
Last week at an NFL owners meeting in Chicago, commissioner Pete Rozelle said that, beginning next year, the league would treat those players found to be using anabolic steroids in the same manner as those who test positive for recreational drugs such as cocaine. In other words, steroid users will be given a warning after one positive result, a 30-day suspension after a second such result and a minimum one-year suspension after a third.
The NFL has dragged its feet on the steroid issue for years, citing either lack of evidence of the drugs' deleterious effects or the high cost and unreliability of steroid testing. But with its new policy, the league is acknowledging that anabolic steroids are a great health hazard and that testing is now both feasible and reliable.
The players' association maintains that drug testing must be part of a collective bargaining agreement, but the sides have been without a contract since Aug. 31, 1987. An NFLPA source says that language about education and confidentiality would have to be in any agreement. Well intentioned, but if the NFLPA has the players' best interests at heart, it will work to eliminate steroids from pro football.
On Oct. 22, 37 years and 19 days after the Brooklyn Dodgers' Ralph Branca gave up the Shot Heard 'Round the World to Bobby Thomson of the New York Giants, a highly regarded 2-year-old pacer named Kassa Branca broke stride in the first division of the New Jersey Futurity at Freehold Raceway and finished seventh. Kassa Branca is named for owner Douglas Kass and Branca, who is a friend of his. The colt went off at 1-9 and greatly disappointed one bettor, identified by track officials only as a man carrying a leather gym bag, who placed a $150,000 show bet on Kassa Branca.
Had Kassa Branca finished in the money, he would have paid the minimum $2.10 to show, which means the "bridgejumper," as such bettors are known, stood to gain $7,500. He should have known better, though, than to bet on a Branca in October.
SILKS THAT ARE SMOOTHER THAN SILK
Jockeys' Wardrobes and, for that matter, thoroughbred racing may never be the same. Traditional silks are giving way to Aeroform Silks, shirts made of a special fabric that is both formfitting and waterproof. The wonder is that it took so long. Not only do the old silks—which are actually made of nylon—catch the wind and create a significant amount of drag, but they also absorb water, or "rain weight," as it is called in jockey parlance.
Aeroform Silks were developed by Rhonda Allen, a sculptor who is married to Joe Allen, a successful thoroughbred owner. While looking at some photos of her husband's horses five years ago, she noticed that the silks were blowing up like balloons. She thought jockeys might benefit from more aerodynamic clothing, so she had tight silks made for Richard Migliore, the jockey of the Aliens' filly, Make The Magic. The horse won her first three starts.
Still, Rhonda lacked scientific evidence, so she went to New York University physicist Dr. Richard Brandt. Said Brandt, "Initially I thought, How important could a few ripples in a jockey's suit be? But at those speeds, 38 miles an hour, the wind force goes up dramatically. We performed wind-tunnel tests on dummies, and all other things being equal, we calculated that a jockey with formfitting silks would gain one inch every second on a rider with traditional silks. In a one-mile race, the difference could be eight feet."
Working with Rhonda Allen, Danskin, the leotard company, began manufacturing Aeroform Silks, and word spread throughout the racing community, which is usually slow to change. Trainer D. Wayne Lukas, who has 14 horses entered in this week's Breeders' Cup, swears by the new outfits, as does jockey Angel Cordero. "When I first wore the new silks, the other jockeys made fun of me," says Cordero. "But I always think about the wind when I ride. You've got to take anything that gives you an edge or you're a bobo."
Cordero prefers the new formfitting getup (right) to the more traditional garb (left).
[See caption above.]
THEY SAID IT
•Irving Rudd, publicist, on his relationship with boxer Thomas Hearns: "There's nothing I wouldn't do for him, and there's nothing he wouldn't do for me, and that's how it's been for 10 years now. We've done nothing for each other."