Pen proving mightier than Snow in NHL spat

ERIC FRANCIS, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 12:09 AM ET

TORONTO – There is a quiet protest going on behind the scenes that threatens to affect the outcome of the league’s biggest award winners.

Three chapters of the Professional Hockey Writers’ Association representing the New York Rangers, the New York Islanders and the New Jersey Devils have decided to pull out of NHL awards voting to support a colleague they feel was unfairly stripped of his credentials.

Chris Botta, who worked for the Islanders for decades before turning to the blogosphere the last few years, was barred from Islanders games earlier this season by the club. While the PHWA and the league tried to have him reinstated, Islanders GM Garth Snow calls it “a dead issue” and steadfastly refuses to give a public explanation.

So what started out as 177 voting members last week for awards like the Hart, Calder, Selke, Norris, Lady Byng trophies is now down to 157 members.

Snow said Saturday the unfortunate thing is while the movement is designed to retaliate against the Isles, it could actually save the club money via the bonuses Michael Grabner or Frans Nielsen could potentially win for the Calder and Selke respectively.

“What’s really unfortunate is they’re taking a stance like this as retribution for the club, but it only hurts Nielsen and Grabner,” Snow said.

“It doesn’t affect the club. but it can cost them money — money I’d gladly pay as bonuses.

“To me, it doesn’t make sense they’re taking the vengeance out on the organization.”

With 20 voters who watch the Islanders play regularly abstaining from the vote, both players’ chances of winning are reduced. It also hurts the chances of other players in the east, as voters typically vote for players with which they’re more familiar.

Chris Botta says he thinks the PHWA’s stance is admirable, but he has had nothing to do with it.

“Ask any of them, and I don’t think they give a hoot about me,” said Botta while at a Rangers’ practice Saturday.

“They want to fix this so it doesn’t happen to them or someone else in the future.”

The league has told the PHWA it is monitoring the situation and may have to act if more voters make similar protests, although no other chapters are expected to pull out.

Several executives around the league have long wanted to take voting away from the PHWA ,and this only helps their cause.

Canucks injuries

It looks like the Vancouver Canucks’ battered blueline will be intact by the time the playoffs start. Alex Edler (back) and Andrew Alberts (wrist) returned to practice Friday following lengthy injuries and will play before the regular season ends. Chris Tanev sat out Saturday but is OK. Dan Hamhuis is recovering well from what they’re treating as a concussion just to be precautionary, as it’s his second in two months. Nothing new on

C Manny Malhotra, who is still in New York following his second eye surgery last week.

’Hawks tauntin’

For the second time in a month, the Chicago Blackhawks are being accused of taunting an injured opponent as he hobbled past their bench. First, it was Calgary Flames C Brendan Morrison, who suffered a serious knee injury last month, and last week, it was Boston Bruins LW Shawn Thornton, who needed 40 stitches to close a gash in his face. ’Hawks LW Patrick Kane is on record denying he is the man responsible.

eric.francis@sunmedia.ca

twitter.com/ericfrancis

Eric Francis appears regularly as a panellist on CBC’s Hockey Night in Canada


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