Bad rep growing

ERIC FRANCIS -- Calgary Sun

, Last Updated: 12:24 PM ET

 DETROIT -- Notes, quotes and anecdotes from a Calgary/Detroit series not nearly as entertaining off the ice as it is on it:

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  VILLAIN NIEMINEN: Ville Nieminen's mindless mugging of Curtis Joseph at the end of Game 4 not only penalized his team harshly due to a suspension but also adds to the reputation the Flames have of being one of the league's sorest losers.

 While cheered on by a home crowd equally as frustrated with the game's developments, the move with seconds remaining is exactly what hockey doesn't need.

 That, and the (justified) beating of Kirk Maltby by Shean Donovan that followed, is just one of several examples of last-second goonery the Flames are becoming known for.

 Although Jarome Iginla's decision to fight Derian Hatcher late in Game 2 (followed by Mike Commodore taking on Darren McCarty) was lauded at the time as sending a necessary message that the Flames didn't have too much respect for the Wings, it was nothing more than frustration.

 In that vein, it wasn't much different than Darryl Sutter's suspension-inducing decision late in the season to have Robyn Regehr, Mike Commodore and Krzysztof Oliwa line up for a line brawl against Nashville in the dying seconds, harkening back to the record-setting slugfest two years ago against Anaheim.

 Iginla's last-minute fight against Mattias Ohlund was different as he was responding to a vicious cheap shot the way every NHLer should.

 Nieminen's indiscretion will almost certainly be a big blow to an already depleted lineup. The league was correct in handing down the one gamer.

 Incidentally, the Wings are well aware of Nieminen's act as the agitator has now faced them 14 times this season, including six as a Blackhawk.

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 HULL-IER THAN THOU: As hard as it is to spot Brett Hull on the ice these days, it's even harder to find him off it.

 Motor City's motor mouth has assumed the holier-than-thou attitude prominent in the Red Wings locker-room, refusing to speak to the media since midway through the Nashville series.

 Unhappy with dwindling ice time and just three goals, Hull is well aware he's at the end of the line with Detroit.

 Detroit writers say he appears disgusted with the whole scene even when his team ousted the Preds. It's all about Brett.

 Chris Chelios has taken a similar stance, also snubbing all media requests.

 While fans might hope players like that would do their part to promote the game that has given them wealth beyond belief, the reality is the large majority of the Wings carry themselves with an arrogance encouraged by Scotty Bowman.

 It's a stark contrast to the Flames room of young upstarts who are widely considered to be the most approachable bunch in the league. There isn't a player in the Flames room who wouldn't gladly give visiting reporters all the time they needed. It's yet another reason why the entire hockey world (except ABC) is cheering for the underdogs.

 Case in point: Here's how good a guy Jarome Iginla is.

 Asked by Sun hockey scribe Randy Sportak after Game 2 if he thought he needed to contribute more offensively, Iginla snapped back.

 "Two shots in two games, don't you think that's enough offensively?" asked Iginla.

 He was simply trying to lighten up the mood but it came across as a little snarky, prompting Iginla to seek out Sportak across the room minutes later to apologize. "I didn't mean to embarrass you, sorry," he said.

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 PAY DIRT: Because NHLers receive their full salary during the season and aren't paid in the playoffs, some may be wondering if recent AHL call-up Brennan Evans is playing for free. Turns out the Flames defenceman is getting a $350 US call-up fee per game on top of the standard $85 per diem NHLers get throughout the playoffs. "And two tickets," added Flames hockey administrator Mike Burke. "I hope he called his parents." Turns out Evans did, as his parents live in Alberta.

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 CHERRY PICKING: The bottom line on the probable departure of Don Cherry is that if the CBC is indeed stupid enough to overlook the fact he's the only attraction to the network (outside of hockey itself) another network will snap him up immediately. It will ensure Hockey Night ratings decrease, meaning we taxpayers will have to pay more for the national joke. As much as the game has passed Cherry by, he is hockey's greatest entertainer -- not that the CBC knows anything about entertainment.

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 CHEAP SHOTS: What you don't know about the Flames previous record for the fastest two playoff goals, (broken Thursday) is that when Joel Otto and Paul Ranheim scored 22 seconds apart against Los Angeles in 1990, they lost that game too, 12-4 ... Best sign seen at Game 4: "Who's the law? Oliwa." ... The man in charge of picking up the malodorous octopi at The Joe is Al Sobotka: Zamboni driver of the stars. He has become a local hero for grabbing the tentacled offering and twirling it above his head to whip the crowd into a frenzy. Said Detroit's backup driver Ray Schultz of Sobotka: "The babes all want to ride with (Al)." ... Two things you'll never see in the Motor City -- someone walking downtown at night and a foreign car ... Darryl Sutter when asked if he foresaw Miikka Kiprusoff playing well enough to set a modern-day NHL record for goals against average: "Do you think anybody did? I'm not that smart."

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 PARTING GIFTS: Detroit has more bowlers than any other city in North America, which is all you need to know about this dump ... ABC broadcaster and former Atlanta Flame Bill Clement on Iginla: "Think Todd Bertuzzi with brains."... The best player in the series, by far, has been Grind Line centre Kris Draper, who isn't too big to engage in insightful chats with media types. Asked why he's such a fan favourite in a hockey-mad city: "Maybe because I was acquired for $1. The blue-collar fans can probably relate to that." ... A Detroit writer during Game 3 at the 'Dome: "A couple of us in the Detroit media are thinking about sitting in the crowd and joining in on the Cujo chant." ... Spotted on the beer cups at the Tigers' Comerica Park: "Responsible drinking is no accident." Considering they're served in massive 32-ounce portions, I'd say sobriety would be an accident and a miracle.

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 PARTING SHOTS: Included in the NHL memorabilia at Hockeytown Cafe in beautifully decayed downtown Detroit is a Flames jersey and, with 500 tries, you'd never figure out whose No. 6 jersey it is. Does the name Lee Norwood ring a bell? ... The Canadian influence in Detroit is such Labatt Blue is the beer served on tap at Tigers games ... The national anthem singer stumbled through O Canada in Game 1 at The Joe and the city is so full of hockey fans everybody noticed. Even more embarrassing is the stadium announcer who has trouble pronouncing the few Flames names he's had to spit out ... It's cheaper to buy a real octopus than it is to buy a stuffed facsimile of 'Rally Al,' the octopus. The real thing is $10 -- $15 (depending on size and whether it's frozen or fresh) at local butcher shops and the purple pillowy version is $25 at concession stands.


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