SUN Hockey Pool

Lakusta offers to help Oilers

JOHN SHORT

, Last Updated: 9:27 AM ET

As always, with NHL No. 1 tough guy Georges Laraque back in town, there's plenty of talk about the injuries that destroyed the Oilers last season.

No doubt, the lack of a full-time enforcer - "goon," if you prefer - made it comfortable for opponents to punish smaller Oilers players. When Zack Stortini was hauled up from the Hamilton Bulldogs, he developed an instant fan following but made no serious difference on the ice.

He was more than willing to compete with rival tough guys but failed to intimidate anybody.

Fortunately, there may be a solution. Former Canadian heavweight boxing champ Ken Lakusta wants to work with Stortini this summer.

"I'd like to tell (general manager) Kevin Lowe that the kid only needs to learn a little bit," Lakusta said. "He's strong. He's a competitor. I could help his balance on skates, show him how to punch straighter."

The first time the Oilers realized they needed a bit of a physical edge, they sent Dave Semenko, Kevin McClelland, Don Jackson and other potential enforcers to learn from world-class conditioner Daryl Duke. It worked then. Why not now?

If not, there's always Laraque.

He finished last season riding shotgun in Pittsburgh for Sidney Crosby but told me in two pleasant telephone conversations that he's still an Oiler in his heart.

SUSPENSIONS UNFAIR

Believe it or not, Gary Bettman and Colin Campbell could teach the NBA something about discipline.

Campbell, who has the nasty job of imposing fines and suspensions when players are seen to get out of line, is too smart to hand down any penalty as unfair as the one Stu Jackson of the NBA handed to Amare Stoudemire and Boris Diaw of the Phoenix Suns.

In this case, sport imitated the real world. The real bad guys, Robert Horry and the San Antonio Spurs, got less punishment than some bystanders.

Those with long memories shouldn't be surprised that Jackson screwed up.

He was the original general manager of the Vancouver Grizzlies and ran them so well that they wound up in Memphis. Nobody misses them - or him - at all.

The NBA rule that bars players from coming off the bench to get involved in scuffles is a good one. Stoudemire and Diaw didn't get involved in the minor uproar that resulted when Steve Nash was body-checked by Horry.

All Jackson had to do was congratulate the Suns for controlling Stoudemire and Diaw and preventing more ugliness. He should have fined the players, that's all. Then the playoff series could have unfolded in a reasonable manner.

But I guess that's too much for some people to understand.

LET'S HEAR IT FOR THE BOYS

To hear Perry Pearn's name, for me, is to bring back a horde of good memories.

The New York Rangers assistant coach, scheduled to tee off in NAIT's annual fund-raising golf tournament, did as much as anyone I can think of to boost the profile of college and university hockey in this neighbourhood. He ranks beside Golden Bears coaching immortal Clare Drake in that regard.

When Pearn ran the NAIT Ooks - then known as the Ookpiks - they were the best college team in the country, good enough to play on even terms with the Bears at least part of the time.

NAIT athletic manager Gregg Meropoulis makes a good point: with former Red Deer College coach Mike Babcock running the Red Wings, Pearn working with Tom Renney in New York and former Augustana coach Mike Johnston on the staff at Vancouver, it's surprising that the ACAC gets so little attention from fans who say they appreciate good hockey at reasonable prices.


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