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Canucks Fire 'Indifferent' Keenan

Vancouver - Mike Keenan, the NHL's gypsy coach, is through in

Vancouver.

Fearing Keenan had lost the heart to coach, and calling the last

month "an unmitigated disaster," Vancouver Canucks president and general

manager Brian Burke believed he had no choice yesterday but to fire

Keenan and replace him with Marc Crawford, who led the Avalanche to the

1996 Stanley Cup.

Almost two days of speculation over Keenan's status ended when Burke

announced he had dismissed Keenan and signed Crawford to a 3 1/2-year

deal. Terms were not disclosed.

"It's become clear to me that as the season progressed, a change was

needed," Burke said. "We had a better start [to the season] than most

people predicted that we would."

The trouble, as far as Burke saw it, began just before the

Christmas break after the Canucks beat the Calgary Flames on consecutive

nights. Since then, the Canucks (15-24-6) have won only twice in 13

games.

"I have issues with the way our hockey club has been coached," Burke

said. "What accelerated my thinking on this change was the way Mike has

coached since Christmas.

"His heart just did not appear to be in coaching our hockey club.

Burke said he didn't know the reason.

"But it was apparent to me that Mike was indifferent at times behind

the bench," he said. "And this is a hockey club that must play with

desperation. There is no room for indifference."

Burke said his decision to make the change also was accelerated when

Mike Milbury removed himself as coach of the Islanders last week.

Fearing losing Crawford to another team, Burke decided to make the move

quickly.

The two met in Tampa during this past weekend's All-Star Game

festivities and reached a deal by Saturday night. After flying yesterday

morning to Vancouver, Burke informed Keenan.

"Mike's comments were that he knows this is a tough business, filled

with tough decisions and he wishes the hockey club and me all the

best," Burke said. Keenan was unavailable for comment.

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