In a toughly worded ruling, National Hockey League President John Ziegler yesterday suspended Montreal Canadiens' Ric Nattress for the 1983-84 season, following the defenseman's conviction for possession of illegal drugs.
"For many years," Ziegler said, "the NHL has had a clear policy. No employe is to be involved with illegal drugs. If you choose to be involved with illegal drugs, you will not be involved with the NHL. To any who now use, or may want to use, illegal drugs, we say this: We do not want you. Get out and stay out of our business."
Ziegler said the suspension could be commuted to all exhibition and 30 regular-season games, provided the Canadiens make the request and provided the league president finds Nattress, a rookie last season, "has not in the meantime conducted himself in a dishonorable manner."
Canadiens General Manager Serge Savard said, "We do think it (the suspension) was a little severe. It happened before the kid joined our club. Also there was the fact that the kid was never a regular user."
Nattress was convicted of possession of three grams of marijuana and one gram of hashish . . .
The Edmonton Oilers may need to send Wayne Gretzky back to a hypnotist to help with his fear of flying, Coach Glen Sather has reported. Gretzky has seen a hypnotist in the past to ease his fear, but the treatment appears to have lost its effect.
"I'd like to . . . drive to the games. I'm getting worse," Gretzky said. "I don't have claustrophobia on planes . . . I just can't take the bumpy rides. Maybe I'm afraid of heights. I just know I'm scared."