Milbury drops puck, and pretense


The TV Repairman:

Welcome aboard, Mike Milbury. Hockey fans are going to love this guy doing studio analysis for NHL games on ESPN.

Just like when he was a coach for the Boston Bruins, Mike sees a situation, reacts to it in language that is unmistakable, sometimes bruising, and lets chips fall where they may.

Touting the return of hockey and ESPN's opener tonight (8), the Stanley Cup champion Rangers taking on Buffalo, Milbury was asked for a quickie reaction to the huge trades the Washington Capitals pulled Wednesday.

"Don Beaupre's always been a disappointment to me," Mike stated of the goalie who was shipped out. "He's a good enough goalie, but not one that's going to take you to the mountain top. Sounds like they're just unloading a salary, which is up around seven figures."

The Caps got just a fifth-round draft choice from Ottawa for a guy who won 254 games in goal.

Milbury had this to say about the recalcitrant Kevin Hatcher, who was shipped to Dallas for defenseman Mark Tinordi: "I like Tinordi better. He'll give Washington great leadership. Hatcher just hasn't gotten it down whether he's a defenseman or a forward."

Milbury and game commentator Bill Clement agree that the NHL's revamped 48-game schedule should be a ball from Game 1, "since it will be intense hockey right from the start," said Clement. "In the long [84-game] schedule, fan interest ebbs and flows, but after just a month or so we'll be right into the stretch drive for the playoffs."

As for how fans will react to the missing 3 1/2 months of games, Milbury guessed, "they'll be back strong, both in the arenas and for the games on TV. I think baseball helps in this respect as it's still mired in problems while hockey kept working at it and came up with a solution."

* The Rams leaving No. 2 market Los Angeles for No. 20 St. Louis is a pure and simple case of the team's figuring it's too much trouble and hard work to be competitive, so why don't we just relax and let the Mound City rubes pay for our misdeeds . . . and it gets the NFL's blessing, to boot.

* Curt Gowdy Jr., producer of ABC's two-hour Super Bowl pre-game show, where the net makes its money, pointed out that "this is the first time the city of San Diego has had a franchise it can really get behind." He was reminded that the San Diego Padres made the World Series in 1984. "But I wasn't there," he answered, meekly.

* ESPN begins its daily coverage of the Australian Open next Monday at 1 p.m., but already sent packing are seeds Boris Becker, Goran Ivanisevic, Marc Rosset, Michael Stich, Gabriela Sabatini, Magdalena Maleeva and Julie Halard. Viewers always say they want to see the up-and-coming players, not the same old gang, but ratings don't bear out this claim.

* TNT has changed the name of its pre-game offering from "Stadium Show" to "NFL Tonight," which should do wonders for the ratings.

* This week's going-out-on-the-limb award goes to ESPN hoops analyst Bill Raftery, who revealed recently that top-ranked UMass (12-1) "is a legitimate NCAA title threat."

* What was it about sitting in the ABC booth the last several years covering college football that prompted Dick Vermeil to feel he has earned or deserves a five-year guaranteed contract at about $2 million per, plus complete control of the football operations of the Philadelphia Eagles? Maybe partner Brent Musburger talked him into it.

* Memos to many: The ad writer for the "Cheapest Guy in Town" commercials referring to the Super Bowl as "The Big Game" is advised that's the Stanford vs. Cal-Berkeley annual. . . . Psst, graphics guy at Channel 13, Mr. Glazer's first name is spelled M-A-L-C-O-L-M.

* This just in: No, that's not Axl Rose, guitarist for Guns & Roses, George Foreman is defending his title against in a couple of months. It's Axel Schulz of Germany and the bout has left the Superdome in New Orleans for Las Vegas "sometime in May" on HBO.

Still on boxing, the other heavyweight title bout, Oliver McCall-Larry Holmes, is finally set for April 8 and it will be a pay-per-view job.

* Barely have the shoulder pads been put away when George Welsh down at Virginia has to start thinking about his team's opening game next summer: At Michigan Aug. 26 in the "Pigskin Classic." George probably recalls when the Wolverines ran up 70 points on his Navy team in front of 105,000 years ago.

* Maryland doesn't have a station on the NBA Radio "Game of the Week" network, but folks with high-tech receivers can pick up Sunday's Rockets-Bulls game at 12:30 p.m. on Washington's all-sports station, WTEM. Or watch on TV (NBC, 1 p.m.). . . . ESPN has the Senior Bowl tomorrow (2 p.m.). Uh, football. . . . Terps hoops Sunday vs. N.C. State (1:30 p.m., Channel 54). . . . Fox is running its "The O.J. Simpson Story" movie Jan. 31 before everything in it is found to be woefully outdated or a misrepresentation.

* The figure skating show on Fox Tuesday night was a keeper, Nancy Kerrigan and Katarina Witt doing a nice job of pumping life into the usual elements accomplished in a program (a little inside talk there), and it will be more of the same on TBS tomorrow (8 p.m.), wild man Elvis Stojko and Frenchman Phillipe Candeloro stretching the boundaries even further. Eye on Sports (CBS) has a skating replay Sunday (4 p.m.). Is this getting ridiculous or what?

* The Hooters' Hula Bowl is on ESPN Sunday (8 p.m.). Ex-Colt Jack Mildren (Oklahoma) tells the story of when he played in this exhibition: "They didn't have any water in the locker room at halftime, so all the players had a couple of beers. None of us ever had as much fun playing as we did in the second half." Played Great, Less Filling.

* CBS Video has a couple of tapes coming out next month covering greatest games of the NCAA championships and Kentucky's involvement over the years. The only weakness is CBS obviously feels nothing of significance took place prior to 1977. John Wooden, who's he?

* The ESPN show "College Basketball's (10) Greatest Games" can tout the Duke-Kentucky East Regional final in 1992 (Christian Laettner's shot wins it, 104-103, at the buzzer) all it wants. Fact is, Houston's stopping a 47-game winning streak by UCLA before 52,000 in the Astrodome in 1968 is unapproachable as No. 1.

* Don't forget, Senior Skins Game is Super Bowl Weekend, Ray Floyd, Jack Nicklaus, Arnold Palmer and Lee Trevino squaring off in Hawaii. Arnie, 65, is cutting his schedule down again and this year will mark his final appearance at the British Open. The legend says, "I'm not even buying green bananas anymore," but he's certainly not cutting down completely as he has plans to build 40 golf course in 20 different countries.

* ESPN will have 27 announcers at the Super Bowl. Obviously, there are no budgetary problems there. . . . ABC sports executive Jack O'Hara says, "We're excited by the 49ers-Chargers matchup." If the point-spread was 29 instead of 19, the network probably would be delirious.

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