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Ozolinsh skips skills event - Miami Herald
Ex-Panther likely upset by trade
BY DAVID J. NEAL
Sandis Ozolinsh never left the building Saturday night. Sandis Ozolinsh never entered the building Saturday -- not Office Depot Center, nor the Westin Diplomat Resort & Spa in Hollywood.
Ozolinsh, traded from the Panthers to Anaheim on Thursday, refused to participate in Saturday night's SuperSkills competition and didn't show up for the Saturday morning interview sessions at the Diplomat. He had to be talked into playing today's NHL All-Star Game.
''I think he's embarrassed,'' Anaheim general manager Bryan Murray said. ``He didn't know how the fans would react.''
Murray also said he thought it was Ozolinsh's way of saying he wasn't happy being traded All-Star Weekend. The Panthers traded for Ozolinsh just 17 days before the 2002 All-Star Game.
Voted to start for the Eastern Conference, Ozolinsh will be introduced as a Anaheim Mighty Duck but still will play for the East. His jersey won't have a team logo.
''He thought, in the beginning, he would have to wear a Panthers uniform,'' Murray said. ``That turned out not to be the case.''
Thursday's four-player trade sent Ozolinsh and Lance Ward to Anaheim for forward Matt Cullen and defenseman Pavel Trnka. Panthers center Olli Jokinen said the team found out about the trade just a couple of hours before Thursday's 2-2 tie at Detroit.
''It was a big shock for the players,'' Jokinen said. ``That's not the time you expect that to happen. We lost a good player and a good leader in the locker room.
``It's always tough, especially when it happens a couple of hours before the game. That's the way the business goes, and you can't really control those things.''
Despite being in the league for 11 years, Ozolinsh can be a shy, sensitive type. He has said he's not comfortable talking in front of large groups, although he rarely ducked the media while in Florida.
He likely will be fined for missing Saturday's media session, as will Colorado goalie Patrick Roy. Last year, in Los Angeles, he showed up with five minutes left in the media session.
Jokinen said Ozolinsh's aversion to attention didn't prevent him from being a leader.
''He talked a few times this year, and everybody's quiet and respecting what he's saying,'' Jokinen said. ``He had a lot of things to say. Everybody was thinking he's a quiet guy and doesn't want to talk in a big group. But he did a few times this year.
''I have a lot of respect for him,'' Jokinen said. ``He's been in the league 11 years. . . . It's a big trade, offensively, and he picked up his game defensively. He had a lot of minuses, but he was playing 30 minutes a night. He was our best defenseman the year he was here, every night.''
Posted on Fri, Jan. 31, 2003 story
You have to wonder if the Florida Panthers are getting tips on timing from Bud Selig.
Selig, baseball's commissioner, chose the immediate afterglow of an uplifting, stirring World Series to introduce the dark cloud called ``contraction.''
This is like the best man choosing the wedding toast to point out the groom's philandering past.
Now consider the playoff-contending Panthers abruptly trading away their All-Star defenseman, Sandis Ozolinsh, smack in the midst of the franchise playing host to its first NHL All-Star Weekend.
Wheeee! The pomp! The circumstance! The bad trade!
Is this any way to throw a party?
The question is rhetorical.
Hey, Panthers, we're trying to have a party here, dammit!
The local professional hockey team has made a bad deal here, no matter how it spins it.
The timing is an obvious slap -- not just because it wet-blankets the goodwill and merriment naturally fostered by playing host to an all-star game, but because it waves a surrender flag.
Despite a recent slump, the Panthers are legitimately contending for a playoff spot at long last. And so they trade away their only legitimate All-Star? (Center Olli Jokinen only made it as a replacement.) It does not make logical sense -- no kind of sense a playoff-dreaming fan might think legitimate, anyway.
It does make fiscal sense, alas.
This has the smell of a salary dump. All the way.
Ozolinsh was making $5 million a year. It wasn't a question of him having too little talent. It was a matter of his contract having too many commas.
Trading away Ozolinsh and utilityman Lance Ward on Thursday night to Anaheim for center Matt Cullen, defenseman Pavel Trnka and a negligible draft pick does nothing for the Panthers except lighten the paychecks their owners must sign.
For Anaheim, acquiring Ozolinsh speaks well of a team fighting for a playoff spot, and acting like it.
For Florida, giving away their veteran anchor verifies a management saying, ``Maybe next year. Or two years after that.''
Panthers general manager Rick Dudley called his acquisitions ''very solid young players'' who might help the team ``for years to come.''
The thing is, this year counts most. This is a franchise trying to reinvigorate and grow its stagnant fan base, yet trading away one of its few stars. This is a team that gave up 12 goals in one game . . . trading its top defenseman.
We have some weird pro sports teams down here. This is just the latest reminder.
The Dolphins watch the playoffs on TV despite a record-setting year by Ricky Williams and as many Pro Bowl defenders as the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
The Marlins give a bizarre, one-year, $10 million contract to past-his-prime Pudge Rodr?guez, spending what they could have paid to keep Cliff Floyd.
The Heat season plays out as episodes of Pat Riley Fight Nights, first with his sparring against game officials, now with his verbal jousting with Indiana Pacers designated fool Ron Artest.
And now the Panthers.
With a big parade in town.
And bringing on the rain.