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Western Conference Notebook: Stojanov shuns pity for trade

Sunday, March 09, 2003

By Dejan Kovacevic, Post-Gazette Sports Writer

Pittsburgh isn't the only place where the infamous 1996 trade of Markus Naslund to the Canucks for Alek Stojanov is brought up again and again.

SportsNet, a Canadian television network, is making a big splash about airing a half-hour special looking back at the deal at 9 p.m. tomorrow, including a rare interview with Stojanov.

While Naslund is among the NHL's elite, Stojanov lasted less than a year with the Penguins, in part because of an auto accident. He played five more seasons in the minors and retired last season with the New Mexico Scorpions of the Central Hockey League. He is studying to be a firefighter.

"He was very apprehensive about doing anything," SportsNet interviewer Christine Simpson told the Toronto Sun. "And I totally understood why. He had been burned a couple of times, and he didn't want to talk about it."

Eventually, Stojanov relented.

"He doesn't want anyone to feel sorry for him or to think of him as a pathetic figure," Simpson said. "He has no regrets whatsoever and said, 'How many guys get a chance to play in the NHL with Mario Lemieux?' He still cheers Naslund, the Canucks and the Penguins. Those are still his teams."

No rookie has scored more than 16 goals, which has some leaning to the Blues' Barret Jackman, an efficient defenseman, as their pick for the Calder Trophy. Jackman might be the best choice, given that the award is based on performance rather than potential, but the rookie who has shown the greatest upside is the Blue Jackets' Rick Nash, the top pick in the 2002 NHL draft. Nash has a modest 14 goals and 18 assists, but he has shown dazzling one-on-one skills thanks in part to Columbus' willingness to let him try anything. He pulled off a sweet one to beat the Canucks in overtime Thursday.

Many are comparing the torrid Predators to the Wild, in terms of their speed, grit and determination. Add Minnesota's Jacques Lemaire to that list. "Their team -- I'm telling you -- is playing well," he told reporters after the teams tied, 2-2, Thursday. "They play a lot like we do. They're one of the good teams in the past 20 games. Not surprising at all." Nashville, which makes its only local appearance Wednesday, is 9-1-1-1 in its past 12 while chasing its first Stanley Cup playoff berth.

Rough week for Craig Button in Calgary. First, he finished last in an ESPN ranking of the quality of NHL general managers. Then, he read a report out of New York in which Glen Sather, his counterpart with the Rangers, took public issue with his work ethic. Sather was asked about potential deals with the Flames and replied: "I wouldn't know. The guy takes two weeks to call me back. ... It's disrespectful. How can you do your job as a manager like this? It's just bad manners." Button declined to respond.

The Alberta player tax lives, much to the chagrin of the NHL Players Association. An arbitrator this week struck down a union protest of the 12.5 percent tax on players while they are working in Edmonton and Calgary. The union beef is that, unlike a similar but much smaller tax on professional athletes in Pittsburgh and other U.S. cities, Canadian law requires that the home team's players also be hit. The Alberta tax draws $6 million per year. The Pittsburgh version draws a little more than $300,000, and that includes the NFL and Major League Baseball.

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