NHL is chock full of surprises

BILL LANKHOF -- Toronto Sun

, Last Updated: 10:01 AM ET

The NHL is in the midst of game-shaping changes.

There even are rumours they might actually, well, play.

Of course, some people once believed the earth was flat, too.

Anyway, when peace in our time is finally found, goalies' leg pads will be 11 inches instead of 12, gloves and upper body pads will be altered and blockers will be one inch shorter.

Pants will be a slimmer retro-fit.

But no word yet on when, instead of the current nets, the league intends to go back to using a pair of galoshes as goalposts.

CHESTERFIELD FOOTBALL

John Madden has been hired to work NBC's Sunday Night Football. It's going up against ABC's Desperate Housewives.

Not sure who wins this ratings game, but it will be the first time Madden has to share a time slot with Hollywood sweater puppies who know more about faking guys out of their jockstraps than he does.

BEST TO WORST

George Best is under investigation for allegedly molesting a girl under the age of 13.

Last week he was under investigation for punching a 34-year-old woman outside the the home of a former girlfriend. And, after undergoing a liver transplant in 2002 on the condition he never drink again, he reportedly is back to tippling the bottle.

In other words, Best could become the first person in sports history to kill himself with women and booze -- twice.

Even Wild Willie Chamberlain couldn't manage that.

It's enough to make a guy turn in his organ donation card.

TIED AND TRUE

Tie Domi says he wants to stay with the Maple Leafs until Toronto wins the Stanley Cup.

I don't think Tie can live -- let alone play -- that long.

Toronto winning the Stanley Cup? There's about as much chance of that as Neville Chamberlain getting peace in his time; Flower Power making all the wars go away, Vince Carter breaking into a sweat while wearing a Raptors uniform or Dave Keon showing up at a Ballard family reunion.

Not only has this hockey lockout cost players money, now it's making Tie see things -- like his name on the Cup.

STEALING TIME

Rickey Henderson, Major League Baseball's career steal leader with 1,406, refuses to give up the game, signing to play with the San Diego Surf Dawgs, an independent league team.

Henderson is 46.

"He creates a buzz," manager Terry Kennedy told the San Diego Union-Tribune.

Of course he does.

But most guys within seed-spittin' distance of 50 know, when you unplug your nose and ear hair trimmer that buzz will stop.

The only thing Rickey should be stealing these days is a nap.

OUT OF BUSINESS

Bill and Nancy Laurie, heirs to the WalMart fortune and firm believers that the only good union is a dead union, have put the St. Louis Blues up for sale.

Evidently, they are in a snit because Chris Pronger & Co. won't work those four-hour shifts for peanuts per hour and two smoke breaks like they ask of the rest of their employees.

SHAMELESS PLUG

The Skate Canada Central Ontario fourth annual celebrity golf tournament is next Thursday at Harbour View Golf and Country Club in Gilford.

Cost is $125 per golfer or $500 for a foursome, including lunch, dinner, cart and a gift package. And no, ladies, your gift package doesn't include taking celebrity participant Ben Ferreira home with you.

Although it doesn't say anywhere in the rules that a person couldn't, you know, try.

For more info, call 905-760-9100, ext. 225. Proceeds will be donated to the Central Ontario Skaters' Trust Fund.

PAPER TIGERS

Dwight Perry, Seattle Times: "Who would've guessed that -- less than a day after the celebrated trial -- it'd be Phil, not Michael, resurrecting the Jackson Five?"

SIZE MATTERS

Those New England Patriots Super Bowl rings just keep getting bigger and bigger.

The latest version has 124 diamonds -- 20 more than last time -- mounted on a 4.94-carat ring and weighs 4.06 ounces.

In simpler terms, so big that Terrell Owens can see the reflection all the way from Philadelphia.

SMART 'N' SASSY

Shaquille O'Neal, on why his life is perfect, in the July issue of Esquire: "Having a beautiful wife and great family and friends around me, all the money I've got, a Ferrari that I just ripped the top off of and turned into a convertible, the rings I got, the two mansions on the water, a Masters in criminal justice, I'm a cop, plus I look good. So me shooting 40% at the foul line is just God's way of saying that nobody's perfect. If I shot 90% from the line, it just wouldn't be right." 


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