The Last Word

STEVE SIMMONS -- Toronto Sun

, Last Updated: 9:24 AM ET

Bob Hartley is quickly becoming an embarrassment to the new National Hockey League.

At a time when hockey is doing its utmost to put on a happy face, Hartley's worst instincts are dragging the game back to its Neanderthal past.

Soon, the talented but ridiculously inept Atlanta Thrashers, may have to make a decision on their coach's future. Don't be the least bit surprised if there is league pressure to remove Hartley from the Atlanta bench.

Atlanta players are being suspended for actions the coach could easily put an end to.

"I don't want to be known as a GM of a team that deliberately goes out to hurt people," general manager Don Waddell told former Toronto Sun reporter Scott Burnside.

Well, guess what? The hurting is happening. The scorecard of players injured by Thrasher cheap shots in one-sided games include Nik Antropov, Darcy Tucker and Paul Ranger.

The Thrashers are damaging people and their game with a reckless approach, applauded by a reckless head coach.

THIS AND THAT

What's a few bucks between friends at Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment, who have gone out and sold the host radio broadcasters Fan590 front row seats from Raptors' games. Said coach Sam Mitchell to new people sitting behind him: "If I could afford these seats, I wouldn't have to coach." ... This doesn't happen often: Paul Coffey left Edmonton as a bitter contract holdout and returned to have his jersey retired ... A Pat Quinn steal: Bryan McCabe for Alexander Karpovtsev five years ago ... The difference between the NBA and the NHL: The NBA mandates what its players must wear off the court while the NHL chooses not to mandate what its players must wear on it ... Rather than a dress code, wouldn't the NBA have been better off issuing a behaviour code? ... Jacques Lemaire doesn't get nearly enough the credit he deserves for being just about the best coach in the NHL. His Minnesota Wild are first in the NHL in the hugely-important categories of power play and penalty killing ... Scott Walker, an Olympian? I don't think so.

HEAR AND THERE

Toronto entrepreneur Michael Firestone has big reasons to cheer for the Houston Astros in the World Series. "I took (owner) Drayton McLane to his first game," Firestone said. "(Paul) Beeston and I talked him into buying the Astros. I also took him to the last game at Maple Leaf Gardens. He didn't like hockey. He fell asleep." ... With ex-Yankees Roger Clemens facing Jose Contreras (traded away for Esteban Loaiza) in Game 1 of the Series, somewhere George Steinbrenner has to be wincing ... When I think Houston Astros, I still think funny uniforms, the Astrodome, and Joe Morgan, Rusty Staub, Mike Cuellar and John Mayberry all traded away for next to nothing ... This must be a baseball card memory: When I think Chicago White Sox, I think Pete Ward ... Can't think of a larger waste of taxpayer money than building a soccer stadium for Toronto. Without a shovel in the ground, this has white elephant written all over it ... Going into last night, Peter Forsberg and Martin Straka were on pace to score no goals this NHL season. Or to quote Tim McCarver from Fox-TV: "I'm on pace to live forever." ... Joffrey Lupul, an Olympian? I don't think so.

SCENE AND HEARD

Owen Nolan is hoping to be back in the NHL by January or February, just in time to poison some unsuspecting lineup prior to the playoffs ... In order to make room for Canadian linebacker Mike Labinjo, the Indianapolis Colts released running back Anthony Davis. Davis -- not Six Touchdowns Davis -- was a star at Wisconsin and a perfect explosive back for a CFL team in need of one ... How come the only athletes who admit to using steroids, Bill Romanowski being the latest cheat, are always peddling a book with their confessions? ... The eye-opener of the new NHL: Average goalies in small equipment are being exposed. Just ask the Edmonton Oilers, Pittsburgh Penguins or the battered Thrashers ... Another reason why the rest of hockey hates the Maple Leafs. In every NHL rink, the words Thank You Fans appear on the ice. In Toronto, it reads Thank You Leaf Fans ... Dan Cloutier, an Olympian? I don't think so.

AND ANOTHER THING

The less noise surrounding Jesse Lumsden the more impact he is making with the Hamilton Tiger Cats ... There is a lot of game in Alexander Steen and a whole lot of his father in him when you watch him play ... Danny Granger has pulled down 26 rebounds in his past two NBA pre-season starts, which would have Raptors fans whining if not for the recent performances of Charlie Villenueva and Joey Graham ... Surely, there must have been somebody out there in free agency, some dead body out of last chances with more to offer than at centre than Loren Woods or Jimmy Hoffa do for the Raptors ... The comforting aspect of Aki Berg's career: He isn't an offensive defenceman. He isn't a defensive defenceman. And he never gets better ... It may not be right as general manager, but one day Kevin Lowe should consider retiring his own number. He meant that much to the Edmonton Oilers ... The Atlanta Braves had no interest in getting into a bidding game to retain pitching coach Leo Mazzone, who left to go to Baltimore for half a million reasons. Still to be determined: How much was Mazzone behind the Braves 14-straight division titles? ... Jason Allison, an Olympian? I don't think so ... And hey, whatever became of Jimmy Wynn?


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