'Ugly' remarks don't faze Ricci

DAN TOTH -- Calgary Sun

, Last Updated: 5:09 PM ET

 Maybe the Flames should hand out eyeglasses to their fans instead of the ever-popular thundersticks.

 After all, the object of so much derisive chanting in Game 3 was named Denver's sexiest athlete in 1997 while still with the Colorado Avalanche.

  "What are you going to do?" shrugged Mike Ricci after yesterday's Sharks practice when reminded of the hearty "RIC-CI'S UG-LY" chorus that rained down Thursday night at the Saddledome.

 "People have the right to their opinion and none of them know me. I know when I go home, I've got a wife and two kids and a dog who love me. As long as my teammates like me, that's pretty much all that matters.

 "(Fans) pay a lot of money, so they can do what they want and they're having fun, so that's great."

 In addition to the chorus from above, Ricci and the Sharks were showered with beer cups and assorted garbage at the end of Game 3, including one disgruntled fan's green hard hat.

 "We've got helmets, we don't need green ones," Ricci smiled. "And they don't match our uniforms."

 A nose only Sharks assistant coach Tim Hunter can appreciate and a wild, flowing mane that covers the name on his back are apparently two reasons Flames fans have chosen Ricci from the pack of Sharks players available for taunting.

 Come to think of it, maybe the Denver fans are the ones who need eye-charts.

 But Ricci's reputation as one of the top defensive forwards in the league and a gritty playoff performer is probably what drives opposing fans to chant his name instead of singing his praises.

 He has two goals and three assists through 14 playoff games, including putting the Sharks on the board with their first goal of the series in Game 1, a 4-3 overtime loss to the Flames.

 Drafted fourth overall by Philadelphia in 1990, the Scarborough, Ont., product played in his first NHL game at the Saddledome that fall.

 He cleared the 1,000-game hurdle earlier this season in Detroit.

 As part of the Eric Lindros blockbuster deal, Ricci went to Quebec for three seasons before the franchise headed to Denver, where he won a Stanley Cup (1996) and apparently the adulation of near-sighted sports fans.

 Two seasons later, he was shipped to San Jose for winger Shean Donovan, who has since joined the Flames under the thunderdome.

 "Every building we've been in has been loud, so it's just another great building to play in," Ricci argued.

 "We've been lucky. Every building we've played in so far, including ours, has been loud and exciting.

 "It's great to play in a building like that but we're kind of used to it.

 While with the Avs, Ricci not only grew his hair but also an appreciation for teammate Stephane Yelle, who has just four points for the Flames these playoffs but is a key performer on faceoffs and blocking shots.

 "He's a great player who's playing well," Ricci offered.

 "He's always had good habits and plays great in the playoffs, so I think both of us are just trying to do what we can to help our teams win."


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