As if the Carolina Hurricanes didn't have enough public-relations problems in their new home, coach Paul Maurice and goalie Sean Burke may have severed ties completely in North Carolina. And a few losses are nothing compared with last week's events.
Burke was charged with assault after allegedly hitting his wife, Leslie, leaving her with bruises on her face and neck. Leslie also was charged with assault after Burke suffered cuts under his eye.
The Burkes argued over whether to employ a live-in nanny to help care for their two children, ages 4 and 2.
With children crying in the background and Leslie Burke sobbing, the following is part of the 911 transcript obtained by a Greensboro radio station:
Dispatcher: "Hello. Okay, What's wrong ma'am?"
Leslie Burke: "My husband beat me up."
D: "Okay. Are you hurt? Is your head hurt?"
LB: "Well, I'm missing a lot of hair."
D: "Okay. Has he done this before?"
D: "Okay. He's going to jail if there's marks on you."
D: "He's going to jail if there's marks on you."
Burke was jailed for part of a day, then benched for the Hurricanes' next game against Detroit. Incredibly, though, Maurice said Burke's benching was a hockey decision that had nothing to do with the incident.
"I'm not going to sit the guy out because I'm trying to make a public-relations move," Maurice said.
Forget the PR move, why wouldn't you sit Burke simply because it would have been the right thing to do?
Ironically, Leslie Burke was quoted in the Hartford Courant last season as saying, "I wish the season lasted the year-around. Summers are tough. It's the only time we fight."
In a statement, Burke said, "We would like to deal with this situation as a family. My wife and I are taking the necessary steps to deal with this matter, and we would hope that everyone will understand and respect our need for privacy as we go forward with our lives."
THERE'S NO W IN FITZPATRICK: Florida's Mark Fitzpatrick had to be the best 0-10-8 goalie in the league.
Fitzpatrick finally won his first game since Dec. 23, 1996, when he beat the Sabres 4-2 Thursday.
"It feels good because we had so many heartbreaking losses throughout the year," Fitzpatrick said. "I'm happy for my teammates because they played so hard for me throughout last year. I was frustrated I couldn't get more wins for them."
Striking while the kid is hot, Florida GM Bryan Murray said the team is taking offers for Fitzpatrick.
FANNING THE FLAMES: Phoenix's Keith Tkachuk warned Calgary's Theo Fleury to keep his head up the next time Phoenix plays the Flames. Fleury's knee-on-knee hit last week sidelined Phoenix's Mike Gartner for at least a month.
"Whether it was deliberate or not, he's out 4-6 weeks, so obviously something happened," Tkachuk said. "We'll play Calgary again (Dec. 23 in Phoenix) and we'll see what happens then."
Gartner said he was neither blaming nor absolving Fleury, but that hardly matters to Calgary coach Brian Sutter, who wasn't broken up over the matter.
"When Keith Tkachuk was talking about us the other night, whining about what was going on, that tells me that teams don't like playing against us," Sutter said. "If they want to talk about us, that's good _ because we're going to play hard and we want a bunch of people here who are going to do it."
TOUGH GUYS: Carolina's Gary Roberts is playing with a broken foot after taking a Roman Hamrlik slap shot on the foot opening night.
"The doctors said if he can handle pain, he can play," Maurice said. "I'll tell you what, that's excruciating."
Meantime, Buffalo's Matthew Barnaby has barely missed a shift despite a cracked sternum, a broken nose, four lost teeth and mouth surgery. In fact, Barnaby refuses to wear a face shield and got in two fights while his oral surgery heals.
"The pain (from the facial injuries) has got to be up there with the broken sternum," he said. "I tore my ACL (anterior cruciate ligament) last year and that was nothing compared to the two injuries I had this year. It hasn't been a good start for me."
PLANES, TRAINS AND LEMIEUX: Colorado bad boy Claude Lemieux was sent to timeout for part of one game by his coach last week because of a faulty plane engine.
Lemieux traveled to Los Angeles with his wife on an off-day and returned the next day 15 minutes late for practice. He arrived late because the plane taking him home blew an engine after takeoff and had to make an emergency landing. A later flight did not get him home in time.
No excuse, Colorado coach Marc Crawford said.
"We made the decision as an organization. We stuck by it and we move on," Crawford said. "It's not a major situation. It's something that had to be done. Claude handled it very well."
Said Lemieux: "I know things can get out of hand on a club like ours with young players, high-profile players, and you can lose control very quickly.
"On takeoff an engine blew up. You learn the unthinkable can happen. Fortunately, we're here to tell the story. We could be dead. (But) coming off a day off, you have to be responsible enough to be at practice on time."
SAVVY: Former Lightning center Denis Savard is spending this season as a part-time coach for Chicago's IHL affiliate Indianapolis, as well as working as an occasional eye-in-the-sky for the Blackhawks.
"I like it a lot," Savard said. "(Coaching) is something I've always wanted to do."
QUICK DRAW: Who is the best faceoff man in the business?
Would you believe Chicago's Steve Dubinsky? The league's new statistics package includes faceoff percentage and, after one month, Dubinsky leads the league at 62.2 percent.
Dubinsky had 79 wins and 48 losses, edging Dallas' Joe Nieuwendyk (61.6 percent) and Guy Carbonneau (61.3).
ODDS AND ENDS: Toronto president Ken Dryden wants his Maple Leafs moved to the Eastern Conference since Toronto is in the Eastern Time Zone. Maybe he should be pushing for Calgary to join the East, too. Of Toronto's four victories, three have come against the Flames. Carl Lindros, Eric's father and agent, admitted he's waiting to see how the Paul Kariya-Mighty Ducks showdown shakes down before resuming negotiations with the Flyers. Do the French believe in miracles? Penguins scout Herb Brooks _ coach of the 1980 U.S. Olympic team _ might work as an assistant for the French Olympic team.