NHLers wary of Afghan pucks

LANCE HORNBY

, Last Updated: 7:22 AM ET

KANDAHAR -- The IED team nickname them "hockey pucks."

But no one on the visiting team of former NHL stars was anxious to see the round, black land mines in action, usually buried just below tire ruts and concentrated on the roads that military vehicles frequent.

The puck was one of several crude but numerous Taliban improvised explosive devices put on display for visitors yesterday, some found just a slap shot away before Kandahar Airfield was secured a few years ago.

They included everything from old Soviet anti-personnel mines dumped by the thousands here in the 1980s, to IEDs that are charged by dead batteries the Taliban once scrounged from the garbage around Kandahar Airfield, binding as many as 50 to get enough juice for a blast.

Mike Gartner almost had a hernia picking up the worst offenders, the 25-kilo mines, which the Taliban hide in common Afghan cooking pots to avoid detection, while Colin Patterson baked for a few seconds inside a 50-kilo bomb disposal suit.

The explosives have been responsible for numerous Canadian casualties.

But the Canadian IED Defeat Team keeps gaining ground with modern detection, using ground and air intelligence and robots to locate and dismantle them.

As part of their tour, players were taken to a shooting range where Brad Dalgarno edged Dave Hutchison in an accuracy competition with C-7 and C-9 machine-guns.

"It reminded me of an Al MacInnis shot," Patterson said jokingly of his former Calgary Flames teammate. "This was an incredible experience; the noise, the heat, the hot cartridges flying all over (one striking an unsuspecting Troy Crowder in the groin). But it gives you an idea of the dangers and conditions (soldiers) face out here."

As a practical joke on the players, officers in charge of the firing range unveiled giant picture targets of Don Cherry, Ron MacLean and former players association boss Alan Eagleson.

"Looks like Al is having digestion problems," kidded Hutchison when he spotted some holes in the latter's picture.


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