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  • Saturday, March 27, 1999

    Hughes has ties up north

    By STEVE BUFFERY -- Toronto Sun
      HELSINKI, Finland -- The most promising young female skater in the world today, Sarah Hughes of the United States, has serious connections to the Maple Leaf.
     And to the Maple Leafs.
     Hughes, at 13 the youngest competitor at this year's world figure skating championships and a world junior silver medallist, comes from good Canadian stock.
     Her dad, John, a Scarborough boy and still a Canadian citizen, played minor hockey with the Marlies organization before moving on to Cornell University, where he captained the Ivy League powerhouse to the U.S. college championship in 1970.
     Hughes played for Cornell from 1966-1970, with some great teams and with one great player in particular -- a big, lanky goaltender and fellow Torontonian named Ken Dryden.
     Now, of course, Dryden is the president and general manager of the Toronto Maple Leafs.
     "Yeah, we let Ken play a little bit," said Hughes, following his daughter's impressive short program yesterday at the Hartwall Arena. She is ninth heading into today's freeskate. "We had the best power play in the nation. We just let them shoot on Ken forever."
     Hughes played with Dryden at Cornell for two seasons but, interestingly, never won a national title with the legendary goaltender. Cornell won the title during Hughes' freshman year (he didn't play on the senior squad) and then won again in 1970, the year after Dryden retired.
     "We went 29-0 and our goaltender was another Toronto kid named Brian Cropper, who went from being Kenny's backup every year to going undefeated," said Hughes.
     Following graduation in 1970, Hughes attended the Maple Leafs' training camp and quickly came to the realization that, despite his success at Cornell, he just wasn't going to be a top player at the NHL level.
     "They chose another young centre over me -- a guy named Darryl Sittler," said Hughes. "I don't think they ever regretted it."
     Hughes had a chance to play for the Leafs' farm team in Tulsa, but decided he would rather go to law school.
     He returned to Cornell and was called to the New York State bar in 1974, the first non-resident in history to earn that right.
     Hughes has been practising law in New York City since. He married an American girl and is raising six kids on Long Island. He has three girls who skate seriously -- one who skates very seriously -- two talented hockey-playing sons and the youngest daughter, Taylor, 7, who does both.
     "What have some great arguments at the dinner table over what is the better sport, figure skating or hockey," John said. "Taylor holds the deciding vote."
     Hughes was asked if he might let Sarah skate for the Canadian team, even just for a while.
     "Technically, she probably could," he said.


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