Khabibulin appealing guilty plea

TERRY JONES, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 9:10 AM ET

Commit the crime? Do the time?

Not so fast, if you're Nikolai Khabibulin.

Play games, so you can play games?

Maybe that's more his motto.

Or maybe not. Maybe he's going for a "not guilty."

But if you expected the Edmonton Oilers goaltender to be thrilled with getting the minimum sentence of 30 days after being convicted for extreme DUI and speeding Friday, the idea of an appeal probably came as a surprise Tuesday.

Put on the pink underwear, striped prison clothes and check in to Arizona Sheriff Joe Arpaio's legendary tent-city work camp Saturday, do your 30 days and show up before the start of the regular season?

Sounds like a good deal, considering the severity of the charges.

Check into the NHL alcohol abuse program, donate a large sum of money to MADD and hold a press conference to tell fans how ashamed you are to have been such a poor example to impressionable youths who idolize hockey players?

Do the same privately with Taylor Hall and all the young members of the Oilers? And proceed with what's left of your career attempting to be a positive role model?

But whoa.

Didn't basketball great Charles Barkley end up in a private tent, serve three days and get released after getting the same minimum sentence for a blood-alcohol content of .149?

Khabibulin's was .164 and there was a charge of speeding as well.

If you can get three days instead of 30 days, who isn't going to try for that?

And if you can appeal your way through the entire hockey season, collect your $3.75 million and the next best thing to a Get Out of Jail card at the same time, well, duh!

For the hockey fan who cares only if the Oilers are going to have goaltending this year, maybe it was great news.

The Russian nyet minder will be here for the start of training camp!

Otherwise, I'm not sure how this is going to play in Edmonton this winter.

And should he not stop many pucks ...

Oilers GM Steve Tambellini wasn't willing or able to answer many questions as a result of the news of the appeal, which followed Khabibulin being found guilty on Friday on three of the four charges against him.

The 30-day stay in jail was the minimum sentence Khabibulin could have received under Arizona law.

The maximum sentence would have been a six-month jail term.

"Nik and his lawyers exercised their right to an appeal," said Tambellini.

"This obviously means the process continues.

"It doesn't allow me, unfortunately, to comment on behalf of the team as we thought we'd be able to do. But that's Nik's right to be able to do that," added the Oilers GM.

In there somewhere, I believe, is the message that the appeal wasn't the Oilers idea.

"As far as any discussion of further discipline or actions taken by the NHL or ourselves, obviously that all has to wait," Tambellini added.

"It kind of puts things on hold, obviously. It doesn't allow us to go forward, actually, at this point."

The 37-year-old who signed a four-year, $15-million contract last year, was pulled over last February in Scottsdale, Ariz., while spending most of the season out with a back injury. His blood alcohol level was twice the legal limit in the state and he was 30 m.p.h. over the legal speed limit.

"Can he come to training camp at this point? Yes he can. The appeal could take months from what I understand."

All season?

"I guess that's a possibility."

The GM added that it's his information Khabibulin would be allowed to play games in Canada and the United States.

"As of now he's one of our goalies. We support Nik through this. He made a mistake. We understand how difficult this is for Nik and his family.

"We're treating this very seriously. We'll get through it. As of right now he'll be here for camp."

Camp begins Sept. 17. It might not be a bad idea for Khabibulin to show up well in advance of that, and do some time with the paying public.

terry.jones@sunmedia.ca


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