Los Angeles — Names in the News . . . John Ziegler, former lawyer and for the past three years president of the National Hockey League.
Although Ziegler was in LA recently to announce that his league would hold its annual Board of Governors meeting here in June, he spent most of his time answering questions about the games's violence.
"Nobody is trying to say that hockey isn't a violent sport," John told reporters at a Forum press conference. "Any time you have 12 superb skaters competing in a rink approximately 200 feet by 85, you are going to have body contact and short tempers.
"The speed with which pro hockey is played, with skaters sometimes reaching 30 m.p.h. and the puck 100 m.p.h., also contributes to flareups," he continued. In my opinion there are always going to be a certain number of fights in hockey, but I don't think the game's present level of violence is excessive or upsets that many people."
Well, John, it upsets a lot of parents whose teen-agers have a tendency to imitate what they see in professional sports.
Stiffer penalties for fighting, including higher fines and longer game suspensions, would help. But when league officials are satisfied with the way their sport is run, what you get mostly is a holding pattern.
Steve Garvey, first baseman of the Los Angeles Dodgers, who slipped all the way to third place last year after winning two successive National League pennants.
"I like to think we learned something in 1979 by losing 31 of our first 41 games and spending so much time in last place," Garvey explained. "Nobody on this club wants to go through that again, and with the three free agents we've signed [Don Stanhouse, Dave Goltz, and Jay Johnstone], I don't think we'll have that problem again.
"Looking back, there was a regular pattern to our first 41 games last year," Steve continued. "On days when we would score eight runs, the opposition would score nine. On days when we'd get a great pitching performance, we wouldn't hit and end up losing 1-0 or 2-1. We also lost eight games that I know about where we entered the eighth inning with a lead that our bullpen couldn't hold. But with Stanhouse out there this year, I don't think that will happen again."
For the record, the Dodgers play eight of their first 11 games this year against the Houston Astros, who have added Nolan Ryan to a pitching staff that also inclu des J. R. Richard and Joe Niekro.
Deacon Jones, one of the National Football League's great defensive ends for 14 years, mostly with the Los Angeles Rams, was recently named to the Hall of Fame.
"When I first came into the National Football League, you never heard about defensive ends, the way you do today," Jones said. "You could be the best player on the field and not even get mentioned in the newspapers.
"Well, I figured I had to do something about this, so I invented a couple of things," he continued. "First, I gave myself a nickname. There was no way I was going to stay DAvid Jones with almost 20 other David Jones's in the LA phone book, so I changed it to Deacon. I figured some writers might pick up on it because it was kind of catchy, and they did.
"I also started talking about sacking the quarterback when everybody else was still saying that so-and-so got tackled behind the line of scrimmage. That caught on, too, and now you hear it all the time."
What the Deacon failed to mention, though, was that if his talent hadn't matched his imagination, none of this off-the-field gimmicks would have meant a thing. Jones was 6 ft. 5 in. tall and 250 pounds, and he could run.
In fact, he went all out, all the time, even in exhibition games.