Dale Hunter's a Hero, at least for a weekend

By Dave Fay
The Washington Times
Sunday, February 4, 2001

DENVER -- Dale Hunter, the retired Washington Capital, played in the Heroes of Hockey game last night, although it is hard to believe he would be considered a hero in the majority of the buildings he played in. How he got here was the question.

You know, I played in Quebec [where the Colorado Avalanche started], and I played here for those last few months, so I guess they needed somebody with a very high skill level to lend a hand,'' he said with a straight face.

Hunter has the look of a man who makes good use of Grecian Formula hair products -- a scenario he denied.

This is fun, getting a chance to play with some of the guys you played against during your career and playing with some of the guys who watched on TV,'' Hunter said. ``I was at the party the other night, and Bobby Hull was there and I got my picture taken with him. That was special.

But the most fun I have is watching the fans watch us. You can tell they're having a good time. This is their chance to see some of the older guys like Marcel Dionne and players like that who put a lot of stats up, played a long time. The fans enjoy it, you can tell.''

Hunter's team, the Colorado Alumni, lost 3-2, but he played a penalty-free game. Time for a comeback?

Corporate silliness

Where is the NBA All-Star Game being staged this year? You might not be able to get the NBA to utter those simple words -- MCI Center -- because one of the NBA's corporate partners is AT&T, and you can bet Ma Bell wants nothing to do with a building named for one of its biggest rivals.

That was the problem facing the NHL here this week. The Avalanche, as well as the Denver Nuggets of the NBA, play their home games in the Pepsi Center. But one of the NHL's biggest corporate sponsors is Coke, and if you think AT&T and MCI don't get along, the soft drink rivalry is truly hateful.

Remember the Olympic Games in Atlanta? Coke's corporate headquarters are in Atlanta, and the people organizing the Games signed Ray Charles to sing the national anthem during the opening ceremonies. His participation was announced and received nationwide publicity.

Have you lost your minds?'' the Coke people demanded to know. You want this American icon to sing our national anthem even though he endorses Pepsi? Is this some kind of sick joke?

The organizers took the hint, fired Charles and got even more national publicity.

Now you get the point. If you have a ticket to the game, you will note it is not being held at the Pepsi Center, it is being held at ``the home of the Colorado Avalanche.''

And Ray Charles won't be doing the anthem here this afternoon either.

Olympic break limited

NHL commissioner Gary Bettman insisted the league will pause for no more than 12 days next season to allow players to participate in the Salt Lake City Olympic Games.

We don't want to take a longer break than that,'' he said. ``We made it clear from the outset that if we had to, we weren't going to go to the Olympics.''

Bettman also said the league and the NHL Players Association would stage another World Cup of Hockey in 2004. The first one was won by the United States, coached by Ron Wilson.

Bettman also restated his strong feeling that the Canadiens franchise remains in Montreal, no matter who owns the team.