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Denis Potvin another Orr? « Douglas Fisher



Denis Potvin another Orr?

Aside from the whirlpool-like obsession of when and how this Parliament will end the following items about hockey are high in the interests of Ottawa, especially unofficial Ottawa.

Firstly, there are ‘pro’ and ‘con’ arguments about the stupidity or the splendid responsibility shown by the mayor and council in the case of the WHA Ottawa Nationals.

The city decided a few months ago to take over management of the Civic Centre arena at Lansdowne Park from the Eastern Ontario Exhibition Association. The latter has been a semi-private, semi-public organization. It had a contract with the Nationals, renewable on March 15 with the posting of $100,000. The Nationals did not post the money. A city controller raised the issue. When was the money to be paid?

With the pro team in the playoffs, it seemed, to some like a kind of blackmail to force the $100,000 out of a valiantly-struggling franchise.

Now it seems probable that the Nationals intended to use the transfer of management from the exhibition to the city as an “out” from their lease contract.

Below a thin veneer of high cultural activity – the Arts Centre and all that – Ottawa is a very sports-conscious and sports-active community. While support for professional sport such as the Roughriders and, this year, the Nationals, may be shaky or “bush” probably no other community in Canada has such a range of facilities and activities, at least on the basis of per capita investment or per capita opportunities.

Secondly, unofficial Ottawa speculates on how much money Denis Potvin, the blocky defenseman of the Ottawa ’67 Juniors will get when he signs after the pro hockey draft in June. Of course, if the merger talks between the NHL and the WHA proceed as quickly as the American judge who is sitting on the legal suits between the two leagues would like, then young Potvin may well fall short of the anticipated half-million dollars in bonuses and deferred annuities.

Denis Potvin is often compared to Bobby Orr. One hears: ” . . . the best since Orr.” Ottawa fans have had five and half seasons to cherish him so their exaggeration of his prowess is natural. Will he become a national folk hero with male Canada, like the man from Parry Sound?

The contrasts are obvious to one who has watched both fairly often. In physique, Potvin is bigger, much more muscular (like Bobby Hull) and compact. In personality, Potvin is less shy, more articulate and bold in speech, and obviously moodier, on and off the ice. Both players have what I would call high “intuitive” IQs but as this is expressed on the ice, Orr’s is more natural and flowing, Potvin’s slower and more reasoned. Consequently, Potvin makes more irredeemable errors during play.

The ’67 Junior is a much harder bodychecker, reminiscent of Lee Fogolin or, better, Eddie Shore. He has a hard streak in him, revealed in fights in which, with a cold furry, he always seems set on destroying his opponent with ripping upper-cuts. His wrist-shot compares favorably to Orr’s. He can take or give a pass as well as Orr at the time he left Oshawa for Boston.

Where the Ottawa player seems to fall well short of Bobby Orr is simply in speed and flexibility in skating. He neither exploits open space nor demonstrates the uncanny sense of where everyone else is on the ice which underlies Orr’s domination of ice-time.

Each Junior season Potvin has had injury and health problems much of it respiratory trouble coming from a noses mashed three seasons ago.

There’s hardly a more pervasive national pastime than estimating the potential of young hockey players. There isn’t a settled placed in the country which hasn’t had its “sure-to-be’s” and it’s “should-have-beens.”

Sporting Ottawa, and that’s almost majority Ottawa, anticipates Denis Potvin as its greatest since Clancy. The other three hockey geniuses of French Canada, Richard, Beliveau and Perrault, are about to have a fourth, at least as French-speaking Ottawa sees it.

There are now so many Canadians in professional hockey that one would expect all the wrinkles in their treatment as taxpayers by the government would be worked out. Indeed, the tax reforms of Edgar Benson gave to players of pro sports and actors and artists some advantages in income-averaging and the use of deferred annuities which these short-career people have deserved in all equity. However, the list of those given these privileges did not include coaches and trainers. As Mr. Pollock of Montreal Canadiens points out: There are few men still coaching or training after the age of 50. It’s
hard to find job categories with greater risks to lengthy tenure.

Another tax problem for Canadian hockey players affects or soon will affect the likes of Denis Potvin. Most Canadians who are drafted by pro teams and who sign contracts leave negotiations to lawyers or other expert agents, for which these servants charge fees,
usually a percentage. More and more pro athletes retain such agents on a permanent basis. It is my understanding that at the present time the Canadian tax authorities do not permit the athlete to charge the service of the agent as a cost against his earned income.