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Blasts from the Past

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Interview with Peter and Dorothy Sullivan
By Barbara Baxter

Question: Is there any animosity towards the 'Swedes' now that you are on the third line?
Peter: No, not really, Barb. Playing on the so-called third line, it's just that, last year when I was with Lindstrom and Labraaten we weren't really considered line one or line two. Now this year that there is another Swedish hockey player on line, the Jets just call their lines - line1 and line 2. It's just basically because there are more Swedes on the team than there are Canadians.
Peter: I don't think there's any animosity because they're all terrific hockey players, I just don't think it's fair that everyone says the Jets now have two lines and last year they only had one line. I think I played just as well with Danny and Willy. They contributed a great deal to the team. It doesn't give a person much confidence to have people saying that the Jets now have two lines after he's been moved out of the centre position to another line.

Question: What do you think of the proposed NHL-WHA merger? Is it good or bad and do you feel that this merger will eventually take place?
Peter: Well, obviously it's got to be good if there is a merger because the public have been cheated for about the last seven to ten years. Hockey has been watered down. If the merger does occur I think you will see better entertainment; as this year you will see in the WHA-with eight strong teams instead of a twelve team league, having four rather weak teams. I think the public deserves this! It's got to take place one way or the other. Last year the NHL perhaps tried to jump the gun by saying that they wanted only six teams when the only teams they did want were Quebec, Winnipeg, and Edmonton.

Question: Do you miss playing in Halifax and was it different from the type of hockey you are playing now?
Peter: About playing in Halifax; maybe I miss it because I did like playing there a lot. Outside of that, I had to better myself as a hockey player and make it to a "pro" rather than a "semi-pro" team. It helped to better my hockey ability as well as myself as a person.

Question: What happened when you were with Montreal - why did you leave?
Peter: Well, I knew that I wasn't going to get a shot with the Canadiens as early as I had hoped to, especially after three years in the minors. (I had proven everything there!) I was their top scorer for a couple of years (yet they still didn't give me a good chance at it). I knew if I didn't get out then I never would. I had to jump from Montreal to Winnipeg and I'm glad I did.

Question: This is your third season as a Winnipeg Jet, have you enjoyed it so far?
Peter: Yes, I can say I've enjoyed it here. You have your ups and downs in everyday life no matter what sort of business you're in. I've enjoyed it in Winnipeg. The people have been good to me and I just hope I continue playing here for a few more years.

Question: Are you looking forward to the trip to Japan and how do the rest of the players feel about it?
Peter: We are looking forward to the trip to Japan but it's at an odd time of the season, right around Xmas and New Years. We're only there for five days but it turns out to be seven, with two days travelling. Playing three games in five days is pretty tough on you with all the travelling. The thought that we are going to Japan - a place that I don't think you just get up and go for a holiday, makes it rather entertaining.

Question: Are you getting paid over and above your contracts for these games?
Peter: Well, you can't really say that because it costs money to go over there and certainly we're not going to take it out of our pockets. The league should pay us because they were the ones who set it up. Expenses, food, etc. will be taken care of pretty well.

Question: Is there a feeling of insecurity on the team because of the Jets present financial situation?
Peter: I think that's a little blown out of proportion. If the Jets were really in trouble why are we always making money in training camp? ($40,000.00 in Europe this year.) We have the highest number of season tickets in the league right now. I just think that what they're doing with respect to this, is trying to build a new arena. I think this is the way they're approaching the situation.

Question: Do you think hockey players in general, are being overpaid? How do you warrant some hockey players getting over $80,000.00 - which is more than most professional people?
Peter: I think it was crazy for a few years there! Take Gregg Jolly, who is now with Detroit, when he signed with Washington, he signed a five year contract for $800,000.00. Now nobody is worth that! If anyone is worth that, say Bobby Hull, Bobby Orr, Perreault or Lafleur, they should make the high dollar because they do bring the people into the building. The last few years the "average Joe" has been making amounts of money that are almost embarrassing. Right now the average salary is around the $50,000.00 mark but that includes a lot of bonuses. If you don't have the required points it could mean $10,000.00 to $15,000.00 less. After all the income tax on a high salary like that could come down to $20,000.00 or $25,000.00. For some players who are still making that large amount ($80,000.00 or more) it's a joke.
Dorothy: In general, yes I do. I don't think that nobody is worth the money that some of these guys are being paid. If anyone's worth a lot of money I guess it's Bobby Hull or Bobby Orr. There has to be a scale. The best players should be at the top and right now I don't think the best players are at the top of the scale.

Question: With the number of players coming and going, how do you feel about playing against ex-teammates?
Peter: That's part of the game. It's the same as working for a certain company. You might get transferred to another place and you might have to be against your best buddy. It's the same in hockey - one day you're with him and the next, you could be playing against him. It's just part of the game. Sometimes it's tough on you but it's all part of the game.

Question: Does the team socialize outside of scheduled gatherings? In other words do you have "close-friends on the team?"
Peter: Sure you have your friends on the team. You have your hockey type friends and you might have other personal friends that are outside of hockey. You do get friends through hockey as you would through any business. I think it's a continuation sometimes if you've played with someone for a few years and you get along it's carried on after your hockey is over.

Question: Since the Jets schedule requires your being out of town so much does it interfere with your family life?
Peter: It does to a point. Then again when we're away as much as we are, we're at home as much as anyone else. With the few months we have off in the summer, it really helps. The main thing is that we can be together for 3-4 months in the summer.
Dorothy: I don't think it does so much. I just mind the road trips. I mind Pete being away. (I don't like to be by myself.) As he says it's nice in the summer when we can go wherever we want and take a nice long holiday.

Question: Do the wives get together while the husbands are out of town?
Dorothy: We get together once in awhile. It's kind of hard when everyone is living in different parts of the city and most of the couples have children. Occasionally we do get together and listen to a game.

Question: Do you have any plans for your son, Sean, with regards to a hockey career?
Peter: Right now we only have the one and we hope to have a few more children later on. It depends, whatever he wants to do he has to make the choice for himself. He won't be pushed into anything but the skates and stick will be there - so will everything else. We try to give him as much as possible but whatever he chooses it's his decision.

Question: Does hockey or an athletic ability "run" in the Sullivan family?
Peter: Yes, it does. My father, Frank, played for Canada when they won the gold medal in the Olympics. He also played for the Toronto Argonauts when they won the Grey Cup. I'm the last of nine children (six boys and three girls). All the boys played hockey except for one who was a figure skating champion. Even the girls were as good as we were in athletics so sports does run in our family.

Question: What hobbies do you have? When you retire, will hockey be a hobby or will you consider it a lesser priority?
Peter: Oh, I don't know! In the summer I just like keeping in shape. I get a kick out of physical fitness. As far as hobbies go, I don't have any serious ones (such as carpentry.) I just basically read. Right now, since I'm only 26 and I hope to play for a few more years, I can't really say what I'm going to do when I'm finished playing hockey. Right now,. I know there are a few things I'd like to do when I retire. As far as continuing in hockey I just might because I like the game so much. I can't see in ten years from now why I won't like it then.

Question: It is said that you have a tendency to stick handle too much? Do you get the feeling from crowd response that perhaps you should be shooting the puck more often?
Peter: They have said that but stick handlings the strong part of my game. I feel that I should use it to my benefit. If I was always to go down the ice and blast the puck they'd be telling me that I shoot too much and that maybe I should hold on to it and make a play with it. So it works out both ways.

Question: Who is the hardest goalie to score against on a breakaway?
Peter: All goalies are tough when you have a breakaway. If I had to puck one in the league right now, I'd have to go with John Garrett of Birmingham. Not only on a breakaway is he tough - but he's the best goalie in the league over all and one of the best in hockey. It's too bad he's not with a team that could appreciate him. It's tough getting 50-55 shots a game all the time and he still has an average of about 350 against them all year. As far as I know the toughest goalie would have to be John Garrett of Birmingham.

Question: Can a coach make or break a team?
Peter: I think so. The coach can make the difference to a point but then again, it's up to the individual in the club. He does have an effect on player personnel overall. I have had good coaches and I've had coaches who just really don't know how to treat individuals. I have to say, one of the best coaches I've had is Al McNeal who used to coach Montreal and now coaches Montreal's farm club in Halifax. He knows how to treat a player as an individual and as a person. I think this means a lot to a hockey club.

Question: Why were you one of the only ones to shake hands with Bobby Kromm after the Detroit game earlier this year?
Peter: I can't really answer that except that I respected Bobby Kromm when he was here. He's a great fundamentalist on the game. He treated me great. I have no arguments about him even though he did cause some controversy. I'm sorry some of the players didn't go over and shake his hand because he did help us win an Avco Cup and we were two periods away from winning another. I just thought it wasn't too sportsmanlike on some of the players parts for not shaking his hand, whether they liked him or not.

Question: I hear you run a hockey school in the summer?
Peter: I do, and this will be my fifth year. It's gone pretty well. I like teaching kids. I feel that Canadian kids have to be born with the talent in order to make it because they aren't taught about the game properly. They aren't taught the fundamentals. They're given the puck and they throw it in the corner and blast after it. As you've noticed, the Europeans when they come over, know how to skate well and do everything with the puck. This is the difference between them and ourselves. Over there, they go to school to learn how the game should be played. That's what I'm going in my hockey school as far as I figure the Canadians have been cheated by not being taught the knowledge of the game.

Question: Do you think the Jets have a chance at winning the Avco Cup this year?
Peter: Well, (really), I think there are about four or five teams that have an excellent chance. As you know we won it two years ago and we just about won it last year. This year our chances are about as good as anybody's.

Question: Do you think Quebec will be an obstacle again this year, with respect to winning the Avco Cup?
Peter: I think so. As you know they were the ones who beat us last year.

Question: Is hockey as big a part of your life as it is in Pete's or do you accept it because it's your husband's career?
Dorothy: Oh no, I like hockey. I've always liked hockey. I know the ins and outs of it, now that I'm involved in it. There's a lot of things I don't like about it. There's a lot of politics in hockey like there is in everything else. The game itself I really enjoy. I really love it!