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Caps' McPhee talks GM meetings, Russia's Olympics

by Mike G. Morreale
BOCA RATON, Fla. -- Long before he became the well-respected general manager of the Washington Capitals, George McPhee was quite the hockey player.

Not only was he a big catalyst on offense, but he very much enjoyed the physical aspect of the game.

McPhee played in the Ontario Hockey League, excelled collegiately at Bowling Green University, winning the 1982 Hobey Baker Award. He signed as a free agent with the New York Rangers and began his NHL career during the 1982 Stanley Cup Playoffs.

In six NHL seasons, including two brief stints with the New Jersey Devils, McPhee would score 24 goals, 49 points and 257 penalty minutes in 115 games.

He admits the game today has changed for the better, despite the fact head shots have become a topic of contention in recent years and were debated in detail at the NHL General Manager meetings this week.

"The speed at which things happen … you have to be a great player to play in this League," McPhee told "You have to do something really well to play in this League and to be able to play at this high level night after night, all season long. With the skill and physical play involved, it's probably the most difficult of all the sports to play."

McPhee took some time with Monday to discuss further the opening day of meetings here at the Boca Raton Resort & Club, in addition to the play of Team Russia at the Olympics -- which included Washington's Alex Ovechkin, Alex Semin and Semyon Varlomov. Is there a fine line between illegal and legal hits?

McPhee: This is something we've been thinking about it for a while and the presentation from the League was outstanding and comprehensive going back to the '60's and showing us video and how the game has been played decades at a time. The concussion research was extremely well done and provides that foundation that we'll all need. (Hits to the head) is a difficult subject and issue to define. We all love the game for what it brings -- speed, finesse and physical contact. We don't want to change it very much at all, but every once in a while you have to move on number of different things, whether it's face offs or icings or, now, hits. We just have to be really careful in how we do that, if we do it." In addition to head shots, were there any other issues you feel need to be discussed?

McPhee: No, not really. I think the game is in great shape. If you watch the way hockey is being played, decade by decade as we saw this morning on video, it's so much better now than it's ever been. We don't need to really change anything, we just need to address a couple of things. We don't want to make rule changes and so we're reluctant to do it, but if something needs to be tweaked a little bit, we will. Jumping to the Olympics, were you surprised with the performance of Team Russia in their final game against Canada?

McPhee: About 10 minutes before the game (against Canada), I just had a feeling that Canada was going to romp because I didn't like the makeup of the Russian team. I thought they left a lot of good players at home and it was just an environment where Canada seemed to be ready to go and they were.

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