Hartley doesn't get criticism

TERRY KOSHAN -- Toronto Sun

, Last Updated: 9:06 AM ET

Bob Hartley's phone apparently started to ring not long after Wade Belak accused him last month of sending out players to fight back in the days when they together in Hershey.

"I got maybe six or seven calls from former teammates of his saying, 'Hey, that's awful. He doesn't remember the extra hours you spent with him after practice, teaching him how to skate, how to shoot and stuff like that,' " Hartley said after the morning skate yesterday.

After the Maple Leafs and Atlanta Thrashers brawled on Oct. 14, the Leafs said Hartley, the Thrashers coach, deliberately sent out players to cause mayhem. A week afterward, when Eric Boulton elbowed Paul Ranger of the Tampa Bay Lightning, the Leafs resumed their charges.

Belak said at the time Hartley would send out players to fight, no matter the score.

But when told yesterday of Hartley's comments regarding their time in Hershey -- Belak was on the Calder Cup-winning team in 1997 with Hartley behind the bench -- Belak said he never thought Hartley was a bad coach.

"As far as teaching young guys the systems and how to play a position, and teach you basically how to do your job, he had that ability," Belak said. "He wanted everybody to be a better player, but there was the other side (of sending players out)."

Hartley yesterday was asked what he thought of the Leafs' accusations.

"My only answer on this is you don't win championships by being stupid," said Hartley, who coached Hershey's parent club, the Colorado Avalanche, to a Stanley Cup title in 2001. "You just have to look at my track record and I think it speaks by itself.

"You can't control what other people will say. The league has done so many great things, improving scoring, making sure clutching and grabbing are gone. Look at the dressing rooms right now (of the Leafs and Thrashers). You have (Mats) Sundin, (Bryan) McCabe, (Tomas) Kaberle, (Ed) Belfour. On our side, you have (Ilya) Kovalchuk, (Peter) Bondra and company. Our priority should be on those guys."

Last night, Belak and Boulton became the focus when they fought at 7:31 of the first period, but Hartley was right.

Despite all the negativity since the night of incidents, Hartley said he sympathized with league disciplinarian Colin Campbell and his staff.

"They have the toughest job in hockey," Hartley said. "I would not want that job."


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