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Original Issue

Inside The NHL

After three aimless seasons, Oiler Alex Selivanov is on a scoring

The career of Oilers right wing Alex Selivanov has produced
little but unpleasant memories since he had a fabulous 31-goal
second season with the Lightning in 1995-96. As Tampa Bay fell
on hard times the next two seasons, the 6'1", 208-pound
Selivanov also faltered, earning a reputation as a soft player
and scoring a total of 31 goals. At times he was benched for his
poor performance, and at others, observers said, he was in the
lineup only because he was married to Carrie Esposito, the
daughter of the Lightning's then general manager, Phil Esposito.
Teammates, in fact, derisively nicknamed him Son-in-law-of.

When Selivanov was traded to the Oilers last January, three
months after Esposito had been fired, his fortunes hardly
improved. He arrived in poor game shape and never hit it off
with coach Ron Low, who scratched Selivanov nine times in
Edmonton's final 38 games. Then last summer came the cruelest
blow: Oilers general manager Glen Sather left him unprotected in
the expansion draft--and he went unclaimed.

So after Edmonton lost 5-2 to the Maple Leafs in Toronto last
Saturday night, it was odd to see Selivanov standing in the
visitors' dressing room discussing his phenomenal scoring
pace--17 goals in 22 games--which, through Sunday, had him
second in the NHL behind Jaromir Jagr and his 19 goals. "I'm
getting a chance," says Selivanov, 28, who has an outstanding
wrist shot and is dangerous and elusive around the net. "I've
got good coaches, and I've got good linemates."

Selivanov has clearly benefited from skating alongside premier
playmaker Doug Weight on Edmonton's No. 1 line and playing under
rookie coach Kevin Lowe, who has given him ample ice time.
Selivanov, who's in the final year of a contract that pays him
$1.7 million this season, knows he must continue playing at a
high level to surpass his performance in 1995-96, a season
capped by his overtime goal that beat the Flyers in Game 3 of
the Eastern Conference semifinals and gave the Lightning a
short-lived 2-1 series lead. "That was the best memory," he
says. "I want to have more memories like that."

Violence Abroad

The widespread perception in North America that European hockey
is untainted by gratuitous violence was dealt a blow at the Four
Nations Tournament in Helsinki last month. In a match on Nov. 13
right wing Mattias Weinhandl of Sweden got tangled with forward
Michal Travnicek of the Czech Republic in center ice. When they
disengaged, Travnicek swung his stick at Weinhandl, striking him
in the left eye with the blade of the stick. Weinhandl fell to
the ice, where he lay for several minutes screaming and bleeding
profusely. "I didn't see it coming at all," says Weinhandl, who
suffered a fractured orbital bone, among other injuries.

Travnicek says that he "didn't [injure] Weinhandl on purpose."
Weinhandl says, "He may not have tried to hit my eye, but he
aimed at my head."

Last Friday, Weinhandl could see people's fingers when they were
held six feet away, but, he said, "they're very, very blurry."
His doctors still hadn't determined the severity of his injuries
and were going to wait two more weeks before saying if
Weinhandl, 19, who was a third-round pick of the Islanders last
June, would need surgery or when he might resume his career.
Travnicek, 19, a ninth-round draft pick of the Leafs in 1998,
was suspended for the last game of the tournament, and the Czech
hockey federation put him on a 13-month probation that calls for
his suspension if he gets a major stick penalty in any
international game during that period, subject to an
International Ice Hockey Federation ruling.

The incident, which has been aired repeatedly on Swedish TV, has
caused a stir in that country in part because the 6-foot,
180-pound Weinhandl is among Sweden's best players. He plays on
a line with Daniel and Henrik Sedin--the twins whom the Canucks
selected second and third, respectively, in last June's
draft--for MoDo in the Swedish Elite League. Weinhandl had 10
goals in 19 games and was regarded as the league's top rookie.

The 6'2", 205-pound Travnicek is no stranger to controversy.
Last January at the World Juniors in Winnipeg, he was suspended
for two games for spitting on a linesman. Then, while playing
for the Czech Republic against Russia in St. Petersburg last
summer, he was among the instigators of a multi-player brawl
that didn't end until the police intervened.

The International Ice Hockey Federation will review the tape of
last month's incident and may further discipline Travnicek.
Regardless of the federation's decision, stick-swinging has no
place in the game, whether in North America or Europe.

New Jersey's Hunk

Sheldon Souray is a punishing, 6'4", 230-pound defenseman who's
known for his steady play, his solid checks and the off-season
hockey clinic he runs for children of his native Metis nation in
Alberta, B.C. On Tuesday, Access Hollywood may have turned the
23-year-old Souray into one of sport's most eligible bachelors:
He was to have been named hockey's best-looking man in a segment
also featuring athletes like Kobe Bryant and Mike Piazza. "It's
a good thing Sheldon's tough, because other teams are going to
let him know about it," says Ken Daneyko, Souray's partner on
the Devils.

Souray, who has thick black hair and a Jim Garner-like jaw,
tried to deflect the inevitable needling by saying that the
grizzled, balding, 35-year-old Daneyko is his choice for
best-looking. Though Souray is single and says he would happily
"date someone in Hollywood," he doesn't expect the exposure to
have any long-term payoff. "People ask if I want to be in
movies, and I tell them I have a pretty good job right now,"
says Souray, who earns $475,000. "Besides, I hope I've got a lot
of years left to play, and I don't think I'll look too pretty by
the time I'm done."

COLOR PHOTO: LOU CAPOZZOLA Selivanov, who had 31 goals in 1995-96, has revived his scoring with a stunning 17 so far this year.



Whom Would You Rather Have?

When he scored his 600th career goal last Friday night, the
17-year veteran became the 11th NHL player to reach that
milestone; he's also the captain and lifeblood of the best team
of the 1990s.


After 18 seasons he retired in 1989 with 731 goals, the third
most alltime. His averages of .542 of a goal and .772 of an
assist per game are better than Yzerman's numbers (.499 and .752
through Sunday).

The Verdict: Yzerman's stats would be even better if he hadn't
devoted himself to becoming a top defensive player midway
through his career--something Dionne didn't do. Throw in his two
Stanley Cups (Dionne didn't win one), and Yzerman is the man.