- The Washington Times - Sunday, February 2, 2003

SUNRISE, Fla. The NHL will conduct its running joke for the 53rd time here this afternoon, an event unofficially known as Embarrass the Goalie. The official name is the All-Star Game.
Offensive stars from throughout the league will put their talents on the line, and defensemen will make no attempt whatsoever to stop them. Goalies will dart this way and that, not so much to stop pucks but to get out of the way of them. Nobody wants to get injured at one of these things.
New Jersey (and former Washington) star Scott Stevens, a defensive defenseman is believed to have thrown the last check in an All-Star Game. It came early in the first period of the 1985 event; he was benched and lectured against making a similar move.
There is a new format this season, Eastern Conference against Western Conference, replacing North Americans against Everybody Else. It will make no difference, because the real winners are the forwards and the losers are the goalies.
Five players named or elected to the teams have been excused. Three Ed Belfour, Brian Leetch and Mario Lemieux are injured. A fourth, Saku Koivu, is undergoing a medical checkup after battling cancer for a season. A fifth, Mats Sundin, was excused as injured but since has played in back-to-back games.
Brett Hull, who is one goal shy of 700, recently wrote an article in a internationally circulated publication that criticized the way the league and union operate. Coincidentally, he's not here either.
The Caps are represented by right wing Jaromir Jagr, who said he didn't deserve the honor. To prove it, he went on a month-long offensive tear, moving from outside the top 25 in league scoring to eighth. Defenseman Sergei Gonchar also was selected to represent Washington.
Stats? What stats?
A group of statistics the league collected before this season giveaways, takeaways, hits, etc. were no longer gathered because, the league maintained, those collecting the material were incompetent. The players union claimed the collecting of the stats stopped because agents used them to support their clients during negotiations.
The union filed a grievance and won. The league was ordered to resume collecting the stats, and the NHL sent out a directive Jan.28 detailing how it was to be done.
The directive left out one detail. The league has no intention of making the stats public. It will turn them over to the union but that's it.
"I have no confidence in those statistics," commissioner Gary Bettman said yesterday.
Roy is a no-show
Patrick Roy, the Colorado goalie who has established standards that won't be challenged for a long time if at all, didn't make many friends yesterday. He embarrassed the league by failing to show up for any of the mandatory All-Star media sessions.
The NHL had no comment.
Friends said the goalie owns a home in the area and arrived Friday. He reportedly played 36 holes of golf and was back on the course yesterday while his teammates tended to business.
Fans voted Roy to start for the Western Conference this afternoon.
Another player who missed the media sessions was defenseman Sandis Ozolinsh. He was traded Thursday from Florida to Anaheim, but the league said Ozolinsh was still to be on the Eastern Conference team.
But Ozolinsh didn't show yesterday or for the skills competition last night, and attempts to reach him failed. He is the player for whom two Panthers fans submitted more than 50,000 votes during the last 24 hours of balloting to ensure he would start the All-Star Game.
Sutherby is MVP
Brian Sutherby, the Washington Capitals' 20-year-old center, was named MVP of the YoungStars competition last night. He had two goals, including the game-winner, and an assist in the 8-3 victory by the East.
"It was a lot of fun, that was the main thing," he said after the game. "I just wanted to come here and enjoy the experience and take what I could from it."
Sutherby did most his damage against goalie David Aebischar of Colorado. He scored on his first shot, assisted on a goal by Buffalo left wing Taylor Pyatt (the son of former Cap Nelson Pyatt) and scored into an empty net.

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