Comrie goes to the Island

JOHN SHORT

, Last Updated: 7:28 AM ET

Mike Comrie is a happy man. His sports-mad dad, Bill, says the New York Islanders made Mike feel wanted.

Not only did general manager Garth Snow and head coach Ted Nolan spend ample time on the phone, but scoring legend Mike Bossy, one of the greatest Islanders in history, also got in touch.

"Ottawa was still talking about signing Mike, too," Bill said, "but there were other issues (goaltender Ray Emery's salary, for one) to deal with."

The display of interest, coupled with word that Bill Guerin also was leaning toward Long Island, gave Comrie plenty of positive vibes. Bossy's call to Comrie, like Joe Sakic's verbal pitch to Ryan Smyth on behalf of the Colorado Avalanche, paid immediate dividends.

Too bad the same sort of enthusiasm hasn't been -- for some reason right now, can't be -- valuable to the Edmonton Oilers.

Kevin Lowe maintains several Oilers are willing to beat the drum about the joys of playing here. Only one problem: nobody has been listening.

Far more useful in today's climate would be league-wide message from local wives. They could step up as a group to send the message that Edmonton is a terrific place to raise a young family, that the warmth of the people is more than enough to offset travel difficulties and occasional sub-zero temperatures.

Now the big question: how many of them could do it with a straight face?

OLD BUT TIMELY STORY

Some years ago, during a function in the Camrose basement of Viking Cup founder Leroy Johnson, a Swedish coach registered frustration over the repeated claims that Swedes are -- or were -- timid hockey players.

The major culprit, in the coach's view, was Don Cherry.

"We don't have to play a rough game," the coach said. "Swedes understand hockey. We play it smart." He also defended the courage of several NHLers, including Mats Sundin and Mats Naslund. "They're not rough," he admitted, "but they're smart and they don't back down."

Finally, I insisted that not every Swede could possibly be an on-ice wizard and the coach agreed, to a point.

He mentioned one non-thinker from his country: Michael Nylander.

The same Nylander who chose to live in Washington, probably the most violent city in North America, and insisted it was his right to take millions less for the privilege.

On the surface at least, Nylander is smart like truck.

JUST CHECKING

Can you remember a busier time than right now for amateur and second-tier pro sports in Good Old Ourtown? I can't.

The visit by Arnold Palmer, the Alberta Open, the Brick tournament, under-19 world soccer, the Rocky Mountain Nationals for motorheads, this week's upcoming Little League baseball playoffs, a week-long training camp for two provincial teams headed toward football's junior Canada Cup . . . it's quite a menu.

Within sight are the Edmonton Champ Car race and several sprint-car specialties at Casttrol Raceway.

In a month or so, the Prairie Football Conference season starts and college and university sports will be revving up.

Next time you want to chirp that that Edmonton is only a pro town, think again.


Photos