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Wednesday, March 12, 2003
Updated: March 20, 3:12 PM ET
Man bites dog!

By Greg Garber
Special to Page 2

As the deadline for war inexorably approaches and the national economy hovers on the brink of collapse, we turn -- like so many generations before us -- to sport for escape.

Harvey the Hound
Moments after "the incident." Parental guidance suggested.
We turn to the uplifting, heartwarming story of Harvey the Hound.

Unlike the contrived tension of "reality television," this is a fascinating parable of good vs. evil, right vs. wrong -- a tongue-twister, if you will. It is the tale of man's best friend triumphing over man himself.

Back on Jan. 20, when the world was a more innocent place, the Edmonton Oilers visited the Calgary Flames in a hockey contest that has come to be known as the "Battle of Alberta." Who could have imagined that the greatest mayhem would be waged not on the ice, but behind the Edmonton bench?

It was late in the third period, with the Flames leading 4-0, and Harvey the Hound, Calgary's colorful mascot, was dancing, giddy in the anticipation of victory.

"He comes to the rink, and he cheers our team on," explained Flames' right wing Jarome Iginla. "He does everything by the book. He doesn't try to get on anybody's nerves. He's just out there enjoying himself.

"He was leaning over the glass, trying to see what was going on with the Oilers' bench. And then ..."

"...all of a sudden, out of nowhere, a quick hand grabbed his tongue and just ripped it out," remembered Calgary center Craig Conroy. "It was almost ... it was unspeakable."

Harvey the Hound
Clownin' around with Harvey the Hound.
Well, yes.

Edmonton coach Craig MacTavish, already seething over the Oilers' inept performance, reached up and yanked the tongue right out of Harvey's mouth. After holding it briefly aloft, MacTavish -- wearing a grin that seemed to blur somewhere between triumph and embarrassment -- tossed the tongue into the crowd behind him.

"Certainly, it shocked everyone," said Flames goalie Jamie McLennan. "It was very emotional for everyone. The image was played over and over again. I'm sure it was burned into people's minds. I think it's the responsibility of parents to sit their children down and tell them how these things happen and how they unfold."

MacTavish, who reportedly had to be restrained by a trainer from grabbing a hockey stick and assaulting Harvey, showed no remorse after the game, a 4-3 win by the Flames. "The emotion of the game was running high," MacTavish said. "You deal with a lot of stuff as a coach, and dealing with Harvey the Hound isn't normally in the job description, nor should it be. I just thought it was inappropriate, to put it as subtly as possible, for him to be there taunting us."

Predictably, the People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals were outraged.

Harvey the Hound
Harvey the Hound is for kids from one ...
"There is never any excuse for cruelty to animals," said Dan Shannon of PETA. "Harvey the Hound was just acting on his instincts as a dog."

Harvey drew support from a diverse group, including Triumph, the Insult Comic Dog, a contributor to "Late Night with Conan O'Brien." Triumph, while watching the video of the incident, had several words for MacTavish, with the exception of "moron," all of them unprintable.

"I was flipping through the channels at the time," Triumph remembered. "There was eight minutes until 'Girls of the Iditarod Gone Wild, Vol. 2' was going to start on my pay-per-view. It caught my eye, some freaky thing with a mascot. I don't know why he's picking on this guy. MacTavish, I mean, his ass is tighter than a Chihuahua's.

"Look, I love hockey. I love hockey, but then again, I eat my own crap."

Fortunately, for Harvey, the tongue was recovered immediately and placed on ice. Three weeks later, after the swelling had gone down, the tongue was successfully reattached in a six-hour operation at Calgary Veterinary Medical Center.

Harvey the Hound
... to 92.
"A difficult procedure," explained Dr. Stephen Waldman. "There was a lot of nerve damage. You're basically trying to re-attach all the tiny vessels within the muscles. If Mr. MacTavish had pulled his tongue out any farther, with the loss of blood and all that tissue, I don't think Harvey would have made it."

While the incident drew global attention, Harvey the Hound -- for obvious reasons -- has remained silent on the issue. Until now. In an exclusive interview with Page 2 -- something you've come to expect from the Worldwide Leader in Sports -- Harvey was tongue-tied no more. On the eve of the March 11 Oilers-Flames rematch in Calgary, he described the agony he endured.

"I woke up that day like any other," Harvey remembered. "Went out and fetched the paper, walked around the block. You know, I've been doing this job for close to 20 years [19, as the NHL's longest-tenured mascot]. I was dancing, just loving. Not hating. "Maybe [MacTavish] is a little intimidated by me. For some reason, the tongue does intimidate a lot of men.

"Did it hurt? Give me your tongue. I'll show you. Of course it hurt."

There were also, his wife Harriet revealed, other, uh, complications.

"The worst thing, probably, I would say, was losing the intimacy in our lives," Harriet Hound said. "The intimacy in our marriage ... it was gone."

Harvey the Hound
It's always Christmas when Harvey's around.
As Triumph pointed out, "I mean that was a long tongue."

The couple sought out Dr. Joyce Brothers, an intimacy expert.

"When I saw the incident, I couldn't believe it, because I know Harvey is an attack dog, in the sense that if you said, 'attack,' he would have one," Brothers said from her New Jersey office. "Together, I think they can repair the damage that has been done, because, even though they are a mixed marriage, they speak the same tongue."

Brothers counseled Harvey and Harriet to move past the episode, but both dogs say they still want an apology from the Oilers. To date, none has been forthcoming.

"Somebody should get Craig MacTavish into some anger management classes," Harriet insisted. "He hurt so many people. Not just Harvey, but the city of Calgary."

The Oilers declined a request for a formal interview.

"We are shocked that you people at Page 2 think this story still has legs," a spokesman said. "You people are beating a dead horse."

Shannon suggested there may well be repercussions for MacTavish.

Harvey the Hound
Harvey's back and hotter than ever.
"Some activists, they throw red paint on fur wearers," Shannon said. "You might see that happen. Some of their fans might throw red paint at the coach to express their frustration."

In the end, Harvey's courage has prevailed. Seven weeks after the incident, he and Harriet report that their relationship, like his impressive tongue, has been repaired.

"It's all good," Harvey said. "We're trying to be positive about this. The only thing I worry about is the children. They relate to me, because so many of them have pets. Could you imagine if Fido got his tongue or tail pulled off? The kids ... they've probably been having nightmares for weeks."

For Harvey, thankfully, the nightmare is finally over.

Greg Garber is a senior writer at ESPN.com.