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Eastern Conference Notebook: NHL tags 7 players as divers

Sunday, March 23, 2003

By Dejan Kovacevic, Post-Gazette Sports Writer

The NHL's list is out, and the first seven players to be officially labeled as divers are: Matthew Barnaby and Darius Kasparaitis of the Rangers, Bryan McCabe of the Maple Leafs, Rick DiPietro of the Islanders, Shaun Van Allen of the Senators, Matt Cooke of the Canucks and Denis Gauthier of the Flames.

All were fined $1,000 by the league after being caught crossing what it terms "the embarrassment line" for diving. They also will have their names placed on a list that is to be posted in NHL locker rooms in attempt to humiliate those players.

The league determined the list not by consulting referees but by studying videotape of every game.

McCabe was furious when a Toronto reporter told him of his inclusion. He was labeled because of an exchange with the Canucks' Todd Bertuzzi eight days ago in which each exchanged shoves but McCabe flopped to the ice.

"I am? For what? For Bertuzzi pushing me?" McCabe said to the reporter. "You can quote me on this: Did I dive when he speared me in the private parts and they didn't call a penalty? They had a picture of it in the paper. They didn't call a penalty, and now I'm a [expletive] diver because he punched me in the head and I went down?"

Despite his protests, McCabe claimed he was not troubled by being placed on the league's list.

"They can put me down ... whatever. They don't call half the [garbage] that goes on. I get speared in the groin the play before, then I get punched in the head and I go down and it's a dive? So [expletive] them."

Billy Tibbetts' third strike seems to have arrived. The Rangers released him on Monday from their AHL affiliate in Hartford after he engaged in a shouting match with Wolfpack Coach Ryan McGill during a game. "He got into a fight on the bench with his coach, and you can't do that," General Manager Glen Sather told New York reporters. Tibbetts, 27, has been given three chances to shake off a criminal past, but he failed with the Penguins and Flyers, and now he lasted only 11 games with the Rangers.

Are the Bruins bound for glory? Three years ago, the Devils stunned the hockey world by firing Robbie Ftorek with eight games left in the season, then went on to win the Stanley Cup with Larry Robinson behind the bench. Wednesday, the Bruins fired Ftorek with nine games left.

Ftorek's firing was the eighth of the season for a coach, a league record.

If the NHL has a tie for the lead in goals at the end of the season, it will place all players' names on the Maurice Richard Trophy rather than search for tie-breakers. The Senators' Marian Hossa, the Avalanche's Milan Hejduk and Markus Naslund and Bertuzzi of the Canucks are in a tight race. The tie-breaker for the Art Ross Trophy as the points leader goes to the player with the most goals.

It appears highly unlikely the NHL will have a 50-goal scorer for the second time in five years, another significant black mark for a league in desperate need of more offense and excitement. Teemu Selanne won the first Richard Trophy in 1998-99 with 47 goals.

Scoring in the league was up by only 94 total goals as of Tuesday, according to the Elias Sports Bureau. That amounts to a palty three additional goals per team for the entire season. Goals per game, when broken into monthly increments this season, have gone from 5.58 to 5.38, 5.09, 5.28, 5.33 and 5.30. Perhaps by no coincidence, penalties for obstruction or interference have dwindled from 2.45 per game in October to 1.18 this month.

How many additional tickets will the league sell by focusing efforts on eliminating diving versus coming up with ways to increase scoring?

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