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NHL's loss is clearly Grizz's gain

ON SECOND THOUGHT, who cares if the teams in the National Hockey League are too stupid to hire Butch Goring to be their coach? Who cares if they can't recognize obvious talent when they see it?

Everybody keeps lamenting that Butch doesn't get another chance to coach in the NHL. Why not shut up about the whole thing and let him continue coaching the Best Valley Grizzlies or whatever they are? Why send the Ducks or Sabres a good coach instead of keeping him to ourselves? Why ask all these irritating questions without coming to the point?Leave well enough alone. Grizzly fans want to keep Butch around. He's produced nothing but winners since he's been here.

Is anybody complaining because the NFL hasn't recruited LaVell Edwards lately? Is anybody encouraging Karl Malone to play for a team in a bigger market?

The less said about Butch, the better. Mum is the word from now on. Goring is our little secret. The more noise you make about him, the more attention he'll receive, and before you know it someone in the NHL will come to his senses, or what's left of them.

If the Grizzlies are smart, they'll never let on about Butch. After every win they'll claim it was despite their coach, not because of him. "Well," they'll tell reporters, "we took the lead tonight after we bound and gagged Butch in the third period when he tried to substitute a defenseman with a Zamboni."

The Grizzlies will leak Butch's flaws to NHL people. They'll note that the guy hasn't worn socks since he got here. Either he's absentminded or the airlines lost his luggage. They'll let it slip that when it comes to fashion, Butch is the original unmade bed. We can't have someone like that in the high-brow NHL.

All Butch can do is coach, but don't tell anybody. He has spent the last decade trying to find a way back in the NHL, but we don't have to help him get there. You think good hockey coaches grow on Canadian trees? If the NHL thinks he's not ready for the Big Show again, who are we to tell them different?

Nobody mention that Butch is a coach that players love. That he has been known to get out on the ice with players and actually practice with them.

Never, never, never mention his credentials. Forget that he had the best regular-season record in the IHL with the Las Vegas Thunder in 1994, 52-18-11. Or that he won the IHL championship the following year with the Denver Grizzlies. Or that he won the championship again a year later after losing all but seven players from the previous year. Or that he won that title despite a staggering 148 player transactions, which left him with just eight players from his original opening-day roster. Or that his IHL record is 201-98-27.

Never tell anyone that Butch was a winner as a player, too. When the Islanders, after years of early playoff exits, went looking for the missing piece of their puzzle, they traded for Goring in 1980. "The day he walked in our dressing room, it was different," says Bill Torrey, then Islanders' general manager. The Islanders won the next four Stanley Cup championships, and Goring was voted MVP of the '81 Stanley Cup playoffs. But you never heard that.

You can pass the word on this: Butch was a clean player and won two NHL trophies honoring his sportsmanship and gentlemanly play. They won't want any of that in the NHL.

Spread the word that Butch had his shot at coaching in the NHL and failed. Just don't mention that most observers think he wasn't given a fair chance. One year after ending his brilliant 16-year playing career, he was made head coach of the Boston Bruins. He went 37-31-2 his first year (1985) and then was fired just 13 games into his second season, when the team was 5-7-1.

Be warned: Butch and his pals could blow this whole thing. They keep telling people that he's a lot better coach now than he was then, as his IHL record indicates. But you could let it drop that the Sabres and Ducks, among other NHL teams, included him on their short list for a new head coach before choosing someone else. The knock on him now - and you could also point this out to NHL people - is that he's been out of the NHL too long now (11 years).

Butch wants another chance. He wants it so bad that when last season ended he called the Coyotes and asked to be put on their candidate list. But he's not so eager that he'll take any job that comes along, and someone ought to make this clear to the NHL types. Butch wants to be in charge, wherever he goes. The Grizzlies have made him general manager, coach and vice president. He'll want similar control in the NHL. He tried it the other way with Boston, and it didn't work.

Those in the know say that Butch has earned another chance to coach in the NHL, that his time will come. A Grizzly official says it's a foregone conclusion.

But they should all shut up about it.