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Penguins Gaffaney decides to quit; 8 others trimmed from Penguins camp roster

Thursday, September 20, 2001

By Dave Molinari, Post-Gazette Sports Writer

WILKES-BARRE -- Defenseman Brian Gaffaney reported to the Penguins' training camp intent on nothing less than having a job in the NHL this season.

About a week later, however, he apparently decided that he doesn't have a future in the game. Or, for that matter, that he even wants one.

Gaffaney, the Penguins' second-round choice in the 1997 entry draft, has left camp, telling management that he plans to return to St. Cloud State to complete work on a business degree, then attend graduate school.

Gaffaney's camp had gotten off to a rough start -- he lost parts of three teeth in a scrimmage, then was one-punched in a fight with enforcer Steve Parsons -- but there was no indication he was about to abandon his career in hockey.

"I think [his departure is permanent]," General Manager Craig Patrick said. "It sounded like, when I talked to him, that he'd made up his mind that he was going to go back to school and go in a different direction with his life.

"It's a tough profession. If it's in your personality to be a professional hockey player ... it's a different kind of livelihood. Not everybody is suited for it."

Although Gaffaney said late last week that he believed he was a viable contender to begin the coming season with the Penguins, he actually was ticketed for their American Hockey League affiliate in Wilkes-Barre or their East Coast Hockey League farm team in Wheeling.

Gaffaney was one of nine players lopped off the training-camp roster, which stood at 71 when the preseason began.

Five -- forwards Colby Armstrong and Michel Ouellet, defensemen Drew Fata and Alexandre Rouleau and goalie Petr Hamerlik -- were returned to their junior teams yesterday, while forwards Jeff Bes, Alain O'Driscoll and Miroslav Cermak were released.

Armstrong, the Penguins' first-round pick in the June entry draft, had not been expected to make a serious bid for an NHL job this season, but consistently upgraded his performance during his week at camp, finishing with two solid efforts in rookie games Monday and Tuesday.

"I thought he got better each day," head scout Greg Malone said. "One of the things that's not unexpected for a lot of guys coming out of junior hockey and into their first camp is that, all of a sudden, they're lining up against maybe some of their idols.

"They kind of get starry-eyed and watch everything instead of just going out and doing things themselves. But I think he got more comfortable as the camp went on. In the two rookie games he played, he handled himself very well. Overall, it was a great experience for him."

Some simple goals

Mario Lemieux doesn't expect to dress for more than three of the Penguins' remaining six pre-season games.

He plans to be in a Wilkes-Barre/Scranton uniform when that team faces the Penguins Saturday night at First Union Arena, and for games against the Thrashers and Columbus at Mellon Arena next week.

Heading into camp, Lemieux had intended to take part in five games -- three in Wilkes-Barre, two at Mellon Arena -- but believes that three will be enough to let him get ready for the season.

"I just want to get my conditioning back, my timing," he said. "That's pretty much all I'm looking for."

Tip-ins

Right winger Eric Meloche, who got a concussion during the Penguins' 4-4 tie in Atlanta Tuesday, will be examined this morning. If he is symptom-free, he will be allowed to ride a stationary bike and perhaps to skate. ... The Penguins contributed $45,000 to the Clear Channel Relief Fund for victims of the terrorist attacks last week. Players chipped in $25,000, while staff members and team alumni gave $10,000 each. ... The Penguins' Wheeling farm team will face another ECHL club, Johnstown, in a scrimmage Oct. 5 at the Penguins' Southpointe practice facility. The teams will meet again the next night in Johnstown. ... Penguins farmhand Mark Moore played against his brother, Steve, a Colorado prospect, in a rookie game Tuesday at First Union Arena.

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