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Original Issue

Small Wonders In the NHL little players have to show they can do things as big as the league's tallest guy, and this season a bunch of them are doing just that....

Phoenix Coyotes center Daniel Briere has been fudging his height
since junior hockey, even before Frank Bonello, the director of
NHL Central Scouting, told Le Journal de Montreal that Briere
was too small to be a high draft choice. (Briere is listed at
5'10", admits to being 5'9" and seems to be 5'8".) He was
selected 24th overall in 1996, and he looks at a clipping of
that Journal story whenever he needs motivation, which has been
infrequent this season considering that his 26 goals through
Sunday not only led the Coyotes but also ranked 19th in the NHL.

The player who has won the most Stanley Cups (11) could have
moonlighted as a jockey--the Montreal Canadiens' 5'7" Henri
(Pocket Rocket) Richard--but Bonello was neither being cruel nor
necessarily wrong when assessing Briere. He was merely voicing an
NHL axiom: Big players have to prove they can't play. Small
players have to prove they can.

This rule of thumb has been upended by the Tom Thumbs of
2001-02. Briere, who was waived through the league early last
season and is on a two-way contract--he earns $725,000 in the
NHL but will get only $50,000 if he's sent to the minors--has
proved he's more than a water bug who can work the power play.
Chicago is the city of broad shoulders and a small right wing,
5'9", 160-pound first-liner Steve Sullivan, a waiver discard by
the Toronto Maple Leafs 21/2 years ago who had scored 52 goals
in 146 games in his second stint with the Blackhawks. When the
New York Rangers have been at their most effective this season,
Lilliputian wingers Theo Fleury (5'6") and Mike York (5'10")
have bookended 6'4" center Eric Lindros. Many of the Canadiens
could eat an apple off 5'9" forward Oleg Petrov's head, but
through Sunday he was Montreal's second-leading scorer, with 21
goals. Two other little guys, Edmonton Oilers center Mike Comrie
(5'91/2") and Boston Bruins wing Sergei Samsonov (5'8"), were
first and second, respectively, on their clubs in scoring.

"In the NHL the odds are stacked against small players," says
Sullivan. "It's a big man's game because they can do exactly what
small players can, plus they're stronger. Big guys might get lots
of opportunities to show their talent, but we might have only one
chance. I hope kids can look up to some of the small guys having
success and keep following their dreams, the way I looked up to
Fleury when I was in juniors."

He looked up. Just not that high. --Michael Farber

COLOR PHOTO: TODD ROSENBERG Steve Sullivan, Blackhawks 5'9"

COLOR PHOTO: V.J. LOVERO Daniel Briere, Coyotes 5'9"

COLOR PHOTO: PETER READ MILLER Zdeno Chara, Senators 6'9"

COLOR PHOTO: BOB ROSATO Mike Comrie, Oilers 5'9 1/2"

COLOR PHOTO: SCOTT CUNNINGHAM Sergei Samsonov, Bruins 5'8"

COLOR PHOTO: LOU CAPOZZOLA Size doesn't matter Fleury, the NHL's shortest player at 5'6", can only look up to the Islanders' 6'5" Oleg Kvasha.

Sweet (and Short) Sixteen

Here is how some of the NHL's height-challenged players, many of
whom are shorter than their listed size, ranked on their team in
points as of Sunday.


Theo Fleury, Rangers 5'6" 22 35 57 1
Cliff Ronning, Predators 5'8" 18 31 49 1
Sergei Samsonov, Bruins 5'8" 25 34 59 2
Daniel Briere, Coyotes 5'9" 26 17 43 2
Oleg Petrov, Canadiens 5'9" 21 13 34 2
Brian Rafalski, Devils 5'9" 7 33 40 4
*Martin St. Louis, Lightning 5'9" 16 17 33 3
Steve Sullivan, Blackhawks 5'9" 18 36 54 4
Mike Comrie, Oilers 5'9 1/2" 26 25 50 1
Pavel Bure, Panthers 5'10" 21 25 46 1
Chris Drury, Avalanche 5'10" 18 18 36 5
Sami Kapanen, Hurricanes 5'10" 23 35 58 2
Ziggy Palffy, Kings 5'10" 24 18 42 3
Todd White, Senators 5'10" 18 23 41 5
Ray Whitney, Blue Jackets 5'10" 15 31 46 1
Mike York, Rangers 5'10" 18 36 54 3

*On injured list