Can 7-foot-7 Bol block hockey shots on skates?

Published: Wednesday, Nov. 13 2002 10:36 a.m. MST

Manute Bol has always been able to block shots with his 7-foot-7 frame. The Indianapolis Ice now want to see if he can do that — or anything else — on skates.

First, the Central Hockey League team has to find equipment big enough to fit the former NBA player.

In an effort to create a buzz around the minor league club, Ice general manager Larry Linde agreed to contract terms Tuesday with the lanky center — well, that's what he played in his basketball career.

Linde hasn't spoken to Bol yet and has no reason to believe the man from the Dinka Tribe has ever skated before. Bol is expected to make his first appearance with the Ice on Saturday when they play the Amarillo Gorillas.

"Are you kidding me? Where?" asked 6-foot forward Geoff Sanderson of the Columbus Blue Jackets, twice a 40-goal scorer in the NHL. "At least he will have a heck of a poke check. His stick will be about 6 1/2-feet long."

It appears more likely that Bol will conduct a meet-and-greet with fans rather than a give-and-go in a game. Don't expect to see the giant on the ice.

"We're in the business of selling tickets, the business of entertainment," Linde said. "We're not going to do anything to jeopardize the integrity of the game or Manute. We're out there to have fun.

"We're not going to throw him out there if he's going to kill himself or someone else."

Linde admitted the deal is designed mainly to generate interest in his team and a cause that Bol has championed.

The GM was the driving force behind the signing after he read an article a month or so ago about Bol's difficult life after he left the NBA.

"We're always looking for a unique angle," Linde said. "We like to expose our fans to people they might like to meet."

Born in Turalie, a remote village in southern Sudan, Bol now lives in Hartford, Conn., with his family.

Over the years he has spent most of his life's savings trying to bring peace to his war-torn homeland, where many of his relatives were leaders in the Sudanese Peoples Liberation Army, a rebel movement. At one point he became an important backer of the rebels, contributing an estimated $3.5 million.

Bol also had trouble getting out of Sudan after he went back a few years ago. Those efforts also dried up a lot of his funds as he supported himself and as many as 20 relatives.

Linde did some online research and contacted Bol's representatives to set up a public appearance at an Ice game. The contract developed from there.

Bol recently took part in Fox TV's Celebrity Boxing show and beat former football player William "The Refrigerator" Perry in a bout.

Bol agreed to take part, so long as Fox agreed to air a toll-free number for the Ring True Foundation, a West Hartford-based charity he set up to benefit southern Sudanese children. He donated his $35,000 fight fee to the group.

Linde also wants to help Bol's cause.

"According to what I've been told he's open to different kinds of ideas," Linde said. "It seems like everything he's doing these days is trying to bring attention to his foundation."

Linde said Bol will sign a standard player contract and then try to skate with the team on Friday and Saturday.

"He's coming in Friday. We'll attempt to get him suited up. We'll see what we can do," Linde said.

What happens with Bol's hockey career after that is unknown.

CHL contracts last for a minimum of one season, but they are rarely guaranteed. Players are paid on a weekly basis at a minimum of $350.

League spokesman Steve Cherwonak said the league would not stand in the way if Indianapolis filed a contract, and that the league president was in favor of it.

It was believed Bol, who weighs 225 pounds, would become the tallest player under contract in the history of professional hockey.

"We commend the Ice for a unique and interesting manner of promoting ice hockey and a worthwhile cause," Cherwonak said. "Are you going to see him take passes and slap shots? I don't think so."

Bol was a 1985 second-round draft pick of the Washington Bullets, and the first foreign player ever drafted in the NBA.

He played 11 seasons with four NBA teams, blocking more shots per minute than anyone in league history. He retired in 1995 after averaging 4.2 rebounds per game and 2.6 points during his career.

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