Brent Peterson is a new man Ñ or at least he has a new voice.
The former captain and coach of the Winter Hawks has spoken with a hoarse whisper since 1989, when he was struck in the throat by a puck while playing for the Hartford Whalers.
At 44, he had become resigned to living with it for the rest of his life, but hope arrived last summer. Peterson, who recently completed his fourth season as assistant coach with the NHL Nashville Predators, was playing golf in a foursome with a voice center's chief, who told him about a new surgical technique.
Last week, Peterson underwent the two-hour surgery.
'The throat is still swollen, but they believe within two months I will be able to talk with 80 to 90 percent of the volume I originally had,' says Peterson, who already has a louder voice.
After the injury, he had to yell to be heard, 'which was a strain on my vocal cord,' he says.
'I will be able to talk with normal volume a lot easier now.'
Television viewers got a firsthand look at the surgery. Nashville's ABC affiliate taped it and showed it during an evening telecast a few nights later. 'Pretty wild,' he says.
Peterson, incidentally, has job security. Head coach Barry Trotz and his staff recently received a two-year extension, despite the Predators not having made the playoffs in the four seasons since their expansion year (1998-99).
• Mariner management reversed itself last week, adopting a 'don't ask, don't tell' policy toward T-shirts worn at Safeco Field that display any variation of the work 'suck.' Last month, during a three-game series with the Yankees, several fans were told to remove or reverse 'Yankees Suck' T-shirts sold outside the stadium by a private vendor, creating a national debate on freedom of speech.
'This issue is better off going away,' said Seattle Vice President Randy Adamack, who stressed that the Mariners continue to maintain a policy of promoting a family atmosphere at Safeco. 'Our policy is still in place, but our employees have been instructed not to ask people to remove or cover up.'
Were such a thing to happen in Portland, what would the Trail Blazers do?
'I don't think we have jurisdiction over what happens outside the Rose Garden,' says Blazer Vice President Erin Hubert. 'There isn't much we could, or would, do Ñ unless somebody is doing something harmful or dangerous.'
• University of Portland senior Travis Parrott goes into the NCAA Tennis Championships unseeded, but that doesn't mean he doesn't have a shot, says Pilot coach Aaron Gross.
'It will kind of be like a golf tournament without Tiger Woods in it,' Gross says. 'Anybody could win it.'
Well, not anybody. Gross says there are five or six favorites in the 64-player singles draw for the May 22-26 event at College Station, Texas, 'but each of those guys could lose on a given day. There are probably 25 players who could win the thing, including Travis.'
Parrott, who intends to turn pro after the NCAAs, was 38-8 for the Pilots this season, going 18-2 in West Coast Conference matches and winning the prestigious Rice Invitational. The transfer from Georgia ranks 44th on the NCAA singles list.
'I believe he has more wins than anybody in the country,' says Gross, who considers Parrott the finest player in school history.
'He has had a great season,' Gross says. 'The biggest reason he came here was to work on his game, so that his game is further along once he goes on tour. He has done that. He has been able to have good results as he has made some strategic changes Ñ mainly to come to the net more and be more aggressive. He has played the whole year as if he has nothing to lose.'
• Mike Bubalo is calling it quits after 30 years of coaching baseball at the middle school, high school, college and professional levels. Bubalo, 52, is in his second stint as Beaverton High's head coach and will quit after the Beavers finish the state playoffs.
Son Ty Bubalo is a senior catcher at Beaverton who probably will be chosen during next month's major-league draft. The senior Bubalo hopes to catch on as a scout with a major-league club.
'My favorite thing to do is watch kids play baseball at all levels,' Bubalo says. 'I feel sort of teary-eyed about the kids I am leaving at Beaverton, but I won't have to do things like field maintenance, fund-raising and parent meetings.'
Bubalo won a state title with Beaverton in 1985 and coached major-leaguers Steve Lyons, Steve Olin and Mitch Lyden.
• The Colorado Rockies optioned Ben Petrick to Triple-A Colorado Springs last week. The former Glencoe High standout, 25, was hitting .163 with no home runs and 18 strikeouts in 43 at-bats this spring. Not a good sign for Petrick, who has been labeled the Rockies' 'catcher of the future' since he was their No. 2 draft choice in 1995.
• Local chiropractor Dean Clark flew to Pullman, Wash., last week to work on several members of Washington State's track and field team and, in the process, spent time with decathlete Dan O'Brien. The Klamath Falls native, now 36, is making a comeback and zeroing in on adding the 2004 Olympic gold medal to the one he won in 1996. O'Brien trains with Cougar coach Rick Sloan.
'Dan looked great,' says Clark, who served as chiropractor for the U.S. 2000 Olympic track and field team and is a former All-America steeplechaser for the Cougars. 'Maybe a little thinner than the last time I saw him and very fit. If his body holds up, I think he can win another gold in 2004.'
• Nike's 'Oregon Project' is moving along. Six months after the Alberto Salazar-inspired program began, seven world-class distance runners continue to train and live in a Northwest Portland house designed to simulate altitude of 12,000 feet. Best result: Dan Browne has run 27:47 in the 10,000 meters this spring, becoming the second-fastest American and shaving 31 seconds off his personal record.
'The basis is to get guys significantly below 28 minutes before they move on to the marathon,' says Salazar, who wants to erase the title he holds as the last great American marathoner. 'Browne has done it after four months. And the blood chemistry changes have panned out tremendously with all the runners, just as we had hoped.'
Salazar also has been working during the winter and summer months with 'six or seven' top high school runners in the Portland area, including Joaquin Chapa and Alec Wall of Grant, Stuart Eagon of Beaverton and Collin Stark-Benz of Franklin.
'When I was in high school, I trained with older guys in a track club year-round,' Salazar says. 'It improved me a lot. That group atmosphere has disappeared over the last decade. I just want these kids to get the opportunity to train together and see what they can do.'
• Another significant contributor to the local track scene: Julie Bright, director of the Stars & Stripes Track Fair scheduled from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday before the Oregon Track Classic gets under way at Mt. Hood Community College. The free clinic for kids grades 6 through 12 will feature instruction from dozens of Olympians and world-class athletes taking part in the OTC event.
nÊFollowing Oregon's lead, Washington State will finance a huge billboard to promote its quarterback, Jason Gesser. But Wazzoo's site is a little less glamorous than Joey Harrington's in New York's Times Square: It's a grain elevator in Dusty, Wash., population 12. 'Oregon spent $250,000,' Cougar coach Mike Price says. 'We're going to spend $250.'