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Doull has a fighting chance

Bruin showing he'd like to stick around

Doug Doull won't save the season for the Bruins. If only it were that simple, right? In times of trouble, ring up Providence for the hired gun, drop him into the lineup, and stand back while his passion washes over an apathetic product like some Love Potion No. 9. For the Bruins to get out of this December's funk, they would need at least a handful more of "Diesel" Doulls, preferably at least a couple with more skate-and-shoot in their equipment bags. But that's not to diminish Doull's talents or courage. The 29-year-old career minor leaguer has been a breath of fresh air around a club that has been suffocating in its own frustration, ineptitude -- and some might say paychecks -- now for the better part of a month.

 

Doull, a sixth-year pro, has taken the old-fashioned route to getting in the game, filling out his resume with his knuckles and nerve. He is not Terry O'Reilly, and he doesn't have the time or accompanying skills to mold himself into a latter-day Taz. But he does have that trademark O'Reilly heart, and that same Ontario ring in his voice. To see him willingly take on every available customer the last couple of weeks has been a refreshing lesson in watching someone want something so much that he literally aches for the chance.

"This is totally unbelievable -- it's like I'm living in a dream world," said Doull. "It's one of those moments in your life when you hope you don't wake up."

The fantasy only became better, said Doull, when Bruins assistant coach Wayne Cashman handed over a cellphone recently, informing the rookie the call was for him. It was ex-Bruins coach Don Cherry on the line, bubbling over with the patented Grapes enthusiasm, telling the aged freshman how impressed he was with his work. Cherry also made Doull an instant Canadian celeb when he featured one of Doull's first bouts on "Coach's Corner" during the "Hockey Night in Canada" broadcast.

"I mean, Don Cherry is a John Madden kind of icon in Canada," said a near-mesmerized Doull. "He's one of those guys, when I was growing up, whenever `Coach's Corner' came on TV, everyone in your household just hushed and hung on his every word. After that was on TV, I heard from family and friends I didn't even know I had."

Prior to landing in Boston's training camp this fall, Doull bounced around for five years after receiving his degree in commerce at St. Mary's University in Halifax, Nova Scotia. He played in the IHL. He played in England. He played in the AHL. He landed in the Hub of Hockey after switching agents after last season, Concord-based agent Bryant McBride convincing the Bruins to give the 6-foot-2-inch, 220-pound winger a chance.

"Just a classic case of a kid calling and asking, `Can you just get me a shot? Just one game in the NHL is all I ask,' " recalled McBride, who also represents ex-Bruins Jason Allison and Byron Dafoe. "How do you say no to someone like that? And, hey, great for the Bruins for giving him the chance, right? He's making the most of it, but they gave him the chance."

Doull first needed a little tuneup work in Providence, not to mention the opportunity presented by a virtual emotional collapse here in Boston, where none of the multimillionaires in residence displayed the willingness to play the part of two-fisted spiritual leader. According to Doull, the primer course in Providence included teamwide tutoring in fighting by resident expert Doug Smith, author of the book, "Goon."

"Yeah, that helped," said Doull. "Doug actually hangs a heavy [punching] bag from the clock above center ice. It just hangs there, and guys bang away on it. Can't say I've ever seen anything quite like that."

There is no telling how much longer Doull will be around town. Head coach Mike Sullivan said last week that he feels there is room on the roster for both Doull and aging pugilist Sandy McCarthy. Reality is, though, the fight guy is an endangered species in today's game, and Doull and McCarthy endanger one another's presence.

"I'm just happy to get to the next function," mused Doull. "I look at the next skate, the next practice, the next pregame warmup, the next game. That's it. I'm not looking very far ahead. And as for the job, hey, it is what it is. I think of myself as being part of a company, and being a company guy. Whether I'm here or Providence, I work for the Boston organization. And for the record, I love these guys. They've been great to me."

Magnuson memories

Like he unloaded the shot yesterday, ex-Bruins blue liner Brad Park can remember the slapper he fired that broke Keith Magnuson's jaw. "He was down on the ice before I even hit it," said Park, who then was working the point for the Rangers, the matinee televised on CBS. "The second it hit him, it made that sickening sound, and you just knew it was broken." Magnuson, 56, was killed Monday in an auto crash just outside of Toronto, with fellow ex-NHLer Rob Ramage at the wheel. "He came up to me years later and said, `You must be a pretty good guy,' " Park said of Magnuson. "The reason was, he saw the film, and he could see I didn't follow the play back up ice after it deflected off of him. Instead, I went right to him to see if he was OK. He was out cold. Keith was a good guy. I'm sorry for him, and for Rob, too." Magnuson was killed as he and Ramage drove back from a funeral for former NHLer Keith McCreary . . . Bill Daly, NHL second in command, last week pointed to Boston's signing of Joe Thornton in 1997 as one of the accelerants that burned a hole through the current collective bargaining agreement. By loading Thornton's deal with performance bonuses, said Daly, it effectively gutted the "rookie cap" established when the CBA was signed in 1995. Hand in hand with the Rangers' three-year, $21 million offer to Joe Sakic the same summer, the deal set the stage for runaway salaries, leading the league in March '99 to inform the Players Association that the CBA would need radical reform -- not even two years after the league and PA extended the deal to 2004. "We've contributed to that inflationary trend, no doubt about it," said Bruins owner Jeremy Jacobs, when apprised of Daly's comments. "I can't disagree with him. We put in a lot of bonuses -- some that were never achieved -- and from there everyone started scheming to get around the entry-level system. Do I regret it? Not as far as Joe is concerned, no. We didn't want a holdout. We couldn't afford not to get him, especially in the environment then, after we finished last during the season." . . . If you find yourself daydreaming about the outdoor game, take a look at www.plasterrock.com, specifically the annual World Pond Hockey Championship held up there in Plaster Rock, New Brunswick. Does it get any better than 20 games at a time, four skaters aside, on the same pond? Four former Merrimack College players, Cooper Naylor, Rob Atkinson, Mark Cornforth, and Mark Goble, all of whom live in Massachusetts, have formed a team and will make the vigil for the three-day tournament at the start of February. "We're looking forward to it," said Naylor, who teaches in the Tewksbury public schools. Other than the eight-hour drive from Boston, it sounds kind of romantic . . . NHL commissioner Gary Bettman told ESPN.com that he would like to come to "some sort of end to the debate over the game," and would like to engage fans, media, team executives, and players in a discussion on how to improve the product. First word: Amen. Meanwhile, there is a general managers meeting in Las Vegas in March, at which time Bettman plans to discuss some potential changes . . . Heading into last night, Detroit speed demon Pavel Datsyuk had 40 points, second in the league behind Robert Lang (42). "The things he does, nobody else does," said Winged Wheels coach Dave Lewis. Entering last night's game, the 25-year-old center was riding a Gretzkyesque streak of 11-13--24 over the last dozen games. Someone's going to have to crack Detroit's patent on the left-wing lock to stop him . . . Former NHL coach Jacques Demers, now a broadcaster, figures that the Bruins and Stars are likely trade partners. Sergei Zubov would look pretty good at the point here in the Hub of Hockey, but he's on the books for another $4 million this year and $6 million in 2004-05 . . . Barry Smith, associate coach in Detroit, is on Rick Dudley's list of prospective head coaches in Florida. Ditto for Larry Robinson . . . Former Bruins coach Butch Goring, coaching in Germany in recent years, recently got the heave-ho from behind the Krefeld bench . . . Ex-Bruin blue liner Darren Van Impe remains on the job in Deutschland, patrolling the blue line for Hamburg.

Trade winds?

Jacobs said Friday that he anticipates roster moves by GM Mike O'Connell. Thornton aside, the two players deemed most attractive around the league would be Sergei Samsonov and Glen Murray. Samsonov likely would bring the most in return -- possibly a No. 1 defenseman? Murray, because he is on track to become an unrestricted free agent July 1, stands to bring less in return as each day goes by. How ironic if he were to end up back with the Kings, who sent him here with Jozef Stumpel (already back in LA) in the Allison exchange . . . Ex-Bruin winger Dave Andreychuk, still skating his lane in Tampa Bay, headed into the weekend with 619 career goals. Only three of those were launched into empty nets . . . Cody Howatt, son of former Islander Garry Howatt, is a captain in the US Army and was among the band of brothers who hauled in Saddam Hussein. If that had been old man Howatt first down the spider hole, the bet here is that no one today would be fretting over Saddam's court proceedings . . . Mike Comrie, finally swapped last week from Edmonton to Philadelphia, signed a one-year deal Friday with the Broad Street Bullies. One rumor has the Flyers flipping the slick center back to Alberta, in exchange for the Flames' Jarome Iginla. Another rumor has him headed to Phoenix for Sean Burke . . . The second Patrice Bergeron slammed into Jose Theodore last week in Montreal, prompting the Habs netminder to jump up and smack the Bruins rookie across the back, someone should have sent the game tape to NHL headquarters. Not for supplemental discipline, but to convince the Lords of the Boards that the game needs more divisional matchups. The paying customers are a whole lot happier when the players are a whole lot madder . . . Even if you don't like Rob Zamuner's game, you have to admire the dignity he has shown since being put on waivers by the Bruins last week. The view here: He has been underutilized and/or misused almost since the moment he signed here as a free agent . . . Winnipeg-based promoter Darryl Wolski is getting a lot of ink for his plan to corral 50-100 willing pugilists to stock a "Hockey Gladiators" television show. Wolski envisions two-minute brawls, on ice, with judges, $50,000 in prize money. Ex-NHL tough guy Tony Twist says he'll suit up. No word yet from Bruce Shoebottom or Al "Beef" Stewart. Wolski: "You can be the best street fighter in the world, and you can get destroyed in a hockey fight." . . . Maybe it's a stretch, but how about Mike Knuble and Harrison Ford as lookalikes? . . . Unlike the Bruins, who have less than $9 million committed in salaries for next year, the Rangers have nearly $66 million earmarked for the 2004-05 payroll. However, $11 million of that is designated for Pavel Bure, who has yet to play this season because of chronic knee woes. Another $10.25 million is pegged for Eric Lindros, but the Blueshirts can walk away from L'enfant Terrible's deal. Voila, they might only be on the hook for $45 million. Now that's money managment . . . Thanks to former Needham High star Larry Tucceri, who may have the best backyard rink this side of Mystery, Alaska, my 6-year-old son, Gates, took a 1964 Zamboni for a spin across a delectable sheet of Down East ice last week. So, hey, if that Division 1 scholarship somehow falls through the cracks, at least he now can pick up a few bucks in college with that Class "Z" license.

Material from personal interviews, wire services, other beat writers, and league and team sources was used in this report.

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