Iron Mike needs lesson in 'tender treatment

BILLY POWERS

, Last Updated: 8:58 AM ET

There may be a method to the madness of Calgary Flames coach Mike Keenan but in the case of his comments about netminder Curtis McElhinney, I have to wonder just where his head is really at.

I thought the 25-year-old backup was brilliant at times in a 4-3 overtime loss to the Detroit Red Wings this week, but after it was over, his coach could find not one word of praise.

In fact, he seemed to lose confidence in McElhinney as the game went on, and it showed in his post-game remarks.

For a kid playing only his second game of the season after watching starter Miikka Kiprusoff play in 27, all he probably needed after the loss was a small pat on the back. Instead, he got a kick in the, uh, teeth.

The hometown product blocked 35 of 39 shots on the night, making some outstanding stops. He may have been faulted on the goal that trimmed the Flames' lead to 3-2, but the game-tying and game-winning markers were supersonic shots and he was screened, to boot.

Would Kipper have stopped those shots? I think not.

Keenan's methods have been successful in previous stops and he may have a plan of some kind for McElhinney, but I agree with a lot of others that he may have dropped the ball this time.

I hope the kid can work through this unnecessary hardship.

KEEP AN EAR ON CURLE

This is not to suggest Flames play-by-play man Peter Maher, who happens to be the best in the business, is looking at retirement, but the NHL club should know that they have a replacement already in their stable.

Hitmen public relations director Brad Curle doubles as the Western Hockey League club's play-by-play announcer and, in my opinion, there is not a more exciting voice in the game. He makes a dud of a contest -- and there are not many of those at the junior level -- sound like the final at the Memorial Cup.

SUNDIN SAGA ALMOST OVER?

The talk of the NHL at the start of the season, the Mats Sundin watch has dropped to the backburner.

But be prepared for it to surface again soon if it hasn't already. Having run into Sundin's Calgary-based agent J.P. Barry at a Christmas party hosted by Kelly and Donna Hrudey this week, I learned the sweepstakes should be over in short order.

Barry hinted while none of the other clubs are talking the US$10 million the Vancouver Canucks have floated, some "offers were very impressive."

STAMPS EN-LIST NEW FANS

Stampeders season-ticket sales have been brisk at McMahon Stadium, in part because a purchase locks up a seat for the Grey Cup game next November.

Those who had ducats last year still have until Feb. 1 to renew and they should be aware that if they don't, there is a lengthy lineup of fans willing to take them over.

The club instituted a waiting list for those tickets this year and the response has been amazing.

The list is already at more than 1,000 names and still growing.

KOOP CALLS IT A CAREER

And finally, my best wishes to Vern Koop who retired Friday after 33 years as the morning news voice on CHQR Radio. I've worked almost 20 years beside this man and can tell you he was the ultimate newshound.

That deep voice will be missed in the mornings.


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