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Tuesday, October 24
Time off a learning
experience for McPhee




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George McPhee showed up at work Tuesday excited about getting back to business. He didn't exactly expect a victory rally. But here he was, his first real day on the job in a month, and in the minds of some Washington Capitals, looking very much like the conquering hero.

Albeit a reluctant one.

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"I'll be honest," McPhee said from the comfort of his home that evening. "I'm surprised at the reaction I've received. It's all been very positive, and while I don't by any means want to glorify what I did, I do appreciate the support our fans have shown me."

Why shouldn't they? Hockey fans have always liked a good fighter.

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In the 1980s, as a member of the Rangers and Devils, McPhee was known as a guy who didn't easily back down. But degrees in business and law and the impressive construction of a front office career in Vancouver and Washington are what defines today's George McPhee, a 41-year-old husband and father who as a second-year general manager is considered one of the finest young executives in the NHL. Like any former hockey player, however, any amount of classroom time and executive training doesn't diminish the passion.

So it was on the night of Sept. 25 in football-crazy Columbus, Ohio that curious hockey fans saw a seamier side of a league that will soon put a team in their college town.

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McPhee, fully aware of the reputation this year's bullied-up version of the Chicago Blackhawks were gaining, churned as he watched cheap shot after senseless fight prolong an otherwise meaningless preseason game at Ohio State University. So, as the game was finally winding to a bloody finish, McPhee made a beeline for the Blackhawks dressing room.

Before he knew it, Chicago coach Lorne Molleken was down and McPhee was being surrounded in the hallway outside by some very irate Blackhawks players. There is never an appropriate time and place for a general manager to find himself in such a position.

"I went down there with the best intentions," said McPhee. "I just wanted to talk. But the timing was all wrong. I should know that the worst time to talk about something like that is after a game, because everyone is so emotional. I just wish I hadn't done it at that time."

According to Hawks players and staff, McPhee confronted Molleken after a game in which 32 separate penalties were whistled, including a match penalty on Dave Manson after he cross-checked Washington's Steve Konowalchuk from behind, knocking his helmet off.

What happened next was that either McPhee grabbed Molleken and a fight between the two ensued, or McPhee ignited it by sucker-punching Molleken. No matter whose interpretation you believe, it did wind up with police intervening after several Blackhawks players jumped on McPhee. No arrests were made, but a story had been forged.

Tough George attacks a coach who looks like an accountant in a hallway after a game, bruising his eye and cheek. All George gets is a torn sports coat sleeve.

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"I don't know about that," said Paul Holmgren, a venerable NHL fighter who now is a suit-toting hockey executive in Philadelphia. "I think Lorne can take care of himself pretty well."

Molleken coached the next night's exhibition against St. Louis sporting a black eye. McPhee was holed up at home, unavailable for comment. Gag orders were spread around, but try as it may, the NHL does not control the media.

"Let me just say," a careful McPhee said Tuesday, "that I don't think it was accurately reported on."

No matter how much the incident was blown out of proportion, McPhee knew it was no way for the second-year vice president and GM to accord himself before the watchful eyes of two new franchise owners, Ted Leonsis and Jon Ledecky. Having the executive branch of your organization engaging in fisticuffs isn't usually the way to win fans over. Then again, it is hockey.

"I'm sure they felt the same way I did, that it's something they'd rather not have happened," said McPhee. "But they were also quite supportive."

McPhee needed that show of support. In the days following the month-long suspension handed out by NHL VP of hockey operations Colin Campbell -- himself a former combatant of some renown -- McPhee was said to have been upset and depressed. He wasn't allowed to make contact with any players, not allowed to go to his office, prohibited from attending practices at Piney Orchard and games at MCI Center.

"At first it was awful," said McPhee, whose first day off the suspension, Monday, was a travel day for his team. "As a general manager you always feel like you're at work or you're on call no matter where you are. And to have that suddenly taken away was definitely different. But after a while I treated it like I was on a sabbatical. I sort of did the job from afar. I reviewed the drafting decisions we'd made and reviewed the contract situations we had. You don't necessarily have the time to do those kinds of reviews when you're doing this job.

"And another great thing about it was that it gave me an opportunity to spend some quality time with my family. My kids are young and I don't normally have time to spend with them every day. This gave me that opportunity."

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Kolzig's heroics earned him Player of the Month honors for January.

McPhee also scouted junior players. He filled the rest of his idle hours reviewing his organizational plan, letting senior executive and governor Dick Patrick and director of hockey operations Shawn Simpson share the office workload. But the club's 2-6-2 start wasn't part of the master plan.

So on his first full day back on the job, McPhee met individually with every player after practice. He gauged their opinions, reiterated the club's need to play sound defensive hockey, and concluded that changes could be in store. He'll investigate the possibility of signing a free agent and will more closely study trade possibilities. But he's not going to look back.

"I don't know if it had any effect," McPhee said when asked if he thought his suspension had a negative impact on the Capitals. "It's hard to measure something like that. I think I may have tried some things, either assigning certain players elsewhere or recalling others. Or maybe I would have been involved in (trade talks). Hard to say.

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Navy College L Seattle Jersey Line j Player Nfl Men's Collier Seahawks Pro "But I know right now I feel about this exactly the same way I felt about it three minutes after it occurred. I wish it had never happened. I had all the right intentions, but I got a very wrong result."

Model minor leaguer?
For the first time this season, Alexandre Daigle received a taste of NHL hockey again. Well, sort of -- he was with the Rangers. And only for a couple of practices. He was in Rye, N.Y., with the Rangers on a couple of off days to skate in place of the injured Adam Graves. But when his Hartford AHL team lined up this week for its next game, Daigle was a member of the Wolf Pack again.

A would-be Hollywood star working at the B-movie level of pro hockey.

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"There's no need to pretend that we don't know what's been said about him," Rangers president Neil Smith told the New York Post. "I told (Daigle) that people think he's more interested in partying in Hollywood and in hanging around with models than he is in applying himself to making it in this profession. What I also told him was we want to give him his best chance of succeeding, by bringing him in at an appropriate time after we've turned it around here, and when there's a spot for him where he can contribute."

Smith feels that time will be somewhere around the holidays, a Christmas present to the fans on Broadway of one of hockey's best glamour boys and all-around overhyped busts. Touted as another Mario Lemieux when he was a No. 1 overall pick in 1992, Daigle has failed in Ottawa, Philadelphia and Tampa Bay. Most attribute that to his lack of work ethic, but at just 24, others see him as still possessing plenty of untapped talent.

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For the Rangers, it's not even a gamble to try to motivate Daigle and tap those skills again, since they're not even paying him. By stashing Daigle with their AHL affiliate in Hartford, the Lightning are responsible for paying his deflated $600,000 salary (down from nearly $2 million last year) until he plays a 10th game in a Rangers uniform.

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Meanwhile, the job of getting Daigle's mind off his long-term career plans of acting and back on hockey falls to Wolf Pack coach John Paddock.

"I wish I could say I'm the best coach in the world, but I'm not. It's all him," Paddock said after Daigle scored 10 points in his first five games and was named AHL Player of the Week. "Maybe a different voice helps, but he's got talent ... To say he's cured, though, would be a big mistake. Being in the minors is a humbling experience for guys, especially somebody with a (high) profile. He hasn't been a model citizen in the past, but he's been good with us. Of course, he should at this level, but I still give him credit. He took a big salary cut to come to us.

"Right now, it's great for us. He's the cheapest player on the team. He's free."

Ulf, that hurts!
All of two weeks into his Flyers career, Jersey Replica White Cowboys Nfl Tony 9 Dallas Football - Romo is earning the stripes that always have made him an NHL convict.

During a win over the Devils last Saturday, Samuelsson wrapped up a game already decided in the final minute by skillfully slewfooting New Jersey's Randy McKay. All most of the crowd and referee Bill McCreary saw, however, was McKay's ugly retaliation -- pursuing Samuelsson from behind and then slashing him with a two-handed chop of the stick across the shins.

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As he's always done in his career as a warrior, Samuelsson shrugged off the play, saying later, "You guys see 16 replays, and you want me to tell you what happened? I was just trying to hit the guy."

And if it was at the knees ... so what?

"He stands a guy up at the blue line without the puck, buckles his knee and then he took my leg out with a slew foot," said McKay. "If you watch my knee on tape, it doesn't look good."

Eastern shorts
  • Everyone who wondered how the Atlanta Thrashers were going to score any goals with the expansion lineup they constructed are still wondering. The Thrashers scored two goals or less in seven of their first nine games.

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    In one four-game stretch of brilliance against the Rangers, Colorado, Calgary and Toronto, they scored all of five goals in going 1-3. More remarkable is how in back-to-back games with Calgary and the Maple Leafs, the Thrashers were outshot 14-1 in the third period by the Flames and 16-2 in the first period by the Leafs. Two periods, outshot 30-3, but Atlanta goalie Baseball Blue Jersey Grey And held the competition scoreless in those two periods.

  • Here's how awful the Islanders are: V-neck Yt1000jex - Cheap In Junior Dubai At Price Buy Shirt J120 Yonex is their No. 1 center. Honest.

  • Flyers winger John LeClair and wife Christina celebrated the birth of their third child last Friday night. It's their second son, and they named him Jager, which was announced as being pronounced JAGR.

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    Naturally, then, LeClair was asked why he would name his son after an opponent from Pittsburgh. "No," LeClair said. "It's JAGGER." Oh, as in Mick? By the way, LeClair's older son is named Cal, perhaps named after some baseball player.

    Quotable
    "They should've never left. Atlanta was one of the best hockey towns in the league. Everybody wanted to play here and loved the city. We were playing in a nice arena, and when we moved to Calgary, we were playing in a much smaller building because the new rink wasn't ready yet. I didn't feel like we were in the NHL anymore. It felt like it was a step down instead of a step up," -- Former Atlanta Flames goalie Dan Bouchard, on the club's move to Calgary in 1980.

    Rob Parent covers the NHL for the Delaware County (Pa.) Times. His NHL East column appears every week on ESPN.com.

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