Attention Rangers Fans: Read this item, then tear it out of the paper and mail it to Dave Checketts.
Each morning Mr. Checketts gets all sorts of suggestions for Blueshirt bossman from the local papers. The Daily News even published a “morning line” complete with odds on 14 potential candidates. Canadian papers are getting into the act, too, with the Toronto Sun nominating Colin Campbell last week. Some of the names brought forward are intriguing. Some make no real sense. Some good names (like Nashville’s David Poile) are just plain missing.
But in his own remarks after firing Neil Smith, Checketts was very clear: The next Rangers GM must be (1) a proven winner and (2) an excellent evaluator of talent.
If these are his criteria, then one name should stand above all: Scotty Bowman.
As a winner, Bowman has (get this) won more games than anyone else has coached. And only Al Arbour has coached more Stanley Cup games (209) than Bowman has won (200, his first in 1968). Bowman has also coached a record eight Stanley Cup championship teams, his first in 1973. No one has been more innovative, no one understands the game better, no one has more nimbly changed with the times.
And no one—not even Lou Lamoriello—knows NHL talent like Bowman. That’s obviously a big component of his coaching success, but what escapes most observers is Bowman’s record of securing talent. As Buffalo’s general manager in the early ’80s, 27 of his 65 draft choices (over 40 percent) became NHL regulars, a remarkable percentage. Three of them—Phil Housley, Tom Barrasso, and Dave Andreychuk—are Hall of Fame caliber.
After flirting with the Rangers’ GM opening that eventually went to Smith in 1989, Bowman became Pittsburgh’s director of player development and recruitment. He was the hidden force in the drafting of Jaromir Jagr and in the trades that reshaped the defense corps (Larry Murphy, Ulf and Kjell Samuelsson) and toughened the forwards (Ron Francis and Rick Tochett), big missing pieces that brought the Pens two Stanley Cups. Engineering deals for Detroit, he finished the work started, ironically, by Smith, snaring Mike Vernon, Doug Brown, Joe Kocur, Igor Larionov, Kirk Maltby, Larry Murphy, Slava Fetisov, Brendan Shanahan, and two more Cups.
No one is better connected in the hockey world. No one is more respected.
Can he handle New York? He’s had a tougher job—coaching the Montreal Canadiens. He won five Cups there in eight years.
Bowman won’t be elected to the Hall of Fame when he finally retires. He’s already been inducted.
That’s Dave Checketts, CEO, MSG, 2 Penn Plaza, New York, NY 10121. Tear here.
Take Me Out to the (New) Ball Yard
The new baseball season marks the debut of three brand-spankin’-new baseball stadiums, in Detroit (Comerica Park), Houston (Enron Field), and San Francisco (Pacific Bell Park). Here’s a handy-dandy guide.
* Named for—Comerica: Bank. Enron: Energy company. Pac Bell: Phone company.
* Next-door neighbor—Comerica: Tigers owner Mike Ilitch‘s Fox Theater. Enron: Houston’s Union Station. Pac Bell: San Francisco Bay.
* Designed by—Comerica: HOK Sport. Enron: HOK Sport. Pac Bell: HOK Sport.
*Bizarre attraction—Comerica: 50-foot-tall Ferris wheel behind third-base line. Enron: Larger-than-life (115% scale model) locomotive that will puff along the left-field wall after Astros homers. Pac Bell: Trained dogs that jump in the bay to retrieve home-run balls.
* Potential design flaw—Comerica: Park faces south, placing setting sun in the eyes of right-handed batters. Enron: Retractable roof may see few open days amid Houston’s brutal humidity. Pac Bell: Landfill foundation could slide into the Bay during the Big One.
* Player to watch—Comerica: Juan Gonzalez; can he crank out homers despite 400-foot power alleys? Enron: Roger Cedeno; can he patrol center field without crashing into the onfield flagpole? Pac Bell: Marvin Benard; can he outhit the giant bronze statue of Willie Mays?
Everyone Loves a Parade
After a funding battle that has dragged on for years, Brooklyn Beep Howard Golden last week looked into his capital budget and—surprise!—found $10.3 million for renovating Brooklyn’s long-beleaguered Parade Grounds. The plan, to be carried out over Golden’s final two years in office, will give the park a long-awaited makeover of its rutted pastures, including soccer fields lined with FieldTurf (the same next-generation artificial turf being installed at Tampa Bay’s Tropicana Field) and a 400-seat baseball facility—and without the Mets minor-league stadium that the mayor had insisted was a necessary component of any renovation. “It’s a win-win,” says Community Board 14 chair Alvin Berk, who had battled alongside Golden to block the Mets ballpark. “The community gets to have its cake and eat it too.”
And what’s the mood at ACORN, which flip-flopped from opposing the ballpark plan to backing a scaled-down version because it said it was the only chance to restore the Parade Grounds? Hard to say, since no one with the organization bothered to call Jockbeat back.
The Mets, meanwhile, are still facing a legal challenge to their Plan B, a 3500-seat ballpark on the campus of St. John’s University. While the mayor claimed on Thursday that opponents “haven’t asked for a temporary restraining order [TRO],” Jamaica Estates community leader Barry Weinberg says a court ruling on a TRO is due any day now. If no park is ready by the New York-Penn League opener in June, the mini-Mets might have to take up temporary residence at Shea Stadium—or perhaps the Seibu Dome.
Fields of Schemes (Cont’d)
Minneapolis Star Tribune reporter Jay Weiner, in his hot-off-the-presses Stadium Games, has exposed the Minnesota Twins’ 1997 threat to move to North Carolina as a complete fabrication, suggested by then governor Arne Carlson as a way to get a new stadium approved. That’s got us wondering: How long before Mayor Giuliani comes clean about that falling beam?
Contributors: Stu Hackel, Neil Demause, Ramona Debs
Sports Editor: Miles D. Seligman