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Copyright 2000 The Houston Chronicle Publishing Company

The Houston Chronicle

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October 10, 2000, Tuesday 3 STAR EDITION


LENGTH: 701 words

HEADLINE: Aeros' Shaw must juggle fire and ice


BYLINE: SCOTT KAISER; Scott Kaiser covers hockey for the Chronicle. His notebook appears on Tuesdays.

BODY: With the current winter-like conditions, it's easy to forget about the drought-inducing weather that blanketed the nation this summer.

One man who knows better than others is new Aeros assistant coach and director of hockey operations Matt Shaw, who nearly lost his offseason home in Montana as a result of the wildfires that engulfed the North and Northwest.

"It's our summer place, but we consider it our home because we've moved so much that it's the one constant," said Shaw, who along with his wife, Carolyn, bought the home in 1992.

Shaw's house is on an 125-acre spread in Hamilton, which is just south of Missoula near the Idaho border in the Bitterroot Range of the Rocky Mountains.

"Normally, we would have been there until late August, but because school starts so early here compared to other areas, we packed up and left (in late July)," said Shaw, who has a 6-year-old daughter (Clare) and 4-year-old son (Hayden). "You knew there might be problems because it was such an uncharacteristically dry year. It looked dicey (when they left)."

Less than a week later, a fire raged through a canyon within one-quarter mile of the Shaws' residence and his sister-in-law helped move their horses and cattle to safety.

"I was looking for a house here while phoning back (to Montana) to see if we had one there," Shaw said. "But even if I was there, what could I have done? All we could do was hope."

Fortunately for the Shaws and others near the canyon, firefighters used bulldozers to dig a fire line, then backburned into the oncoming fire.

"They burned the fuel out before it really got roaring," Shaw said. "It was about as close as it could get and fortunately we didn't lose anything, which wasn't the case for some of the others in the valley."

Shaw said unabomber Ted Kaczynski wasn't one of his neighbors, but area residents do include singer Huey Lewis and actor Christopher Lloyd. And financial giant Charles Schwab recently built an 18-hole golf course nearby.

In addition to being in charge of the Aeros' defense and penalty killing, Shaw is heavily involved with new Aeros boss Dave Barr regarding personnel and contracts.

"Dave's given me a lot of responsibility," said the 34-year-old Shaw, who was the head coach of the Quad City Mallards last season. "I'm honored by that, and I've really enjoyed working with him. I've already learned a lot."

It's been a good fit for Barr as well.

"Matt's been great," Barr said. "It's very comforting to know I have a sharp guy like that who works hard for me and the team."

Blood brothers - What had been a frustrating month for injured Aeros right wing Alex Vasilevski turned brighter Thursday when he learned childhood buddy and defenseman Sergei Klimentiev had been assigned to the Aeros by the Columbus Blue Jackets.

"It's unbelievable," said Vasilevski, whose eyes lit up like a Christmas tree when told of Klimentiev's impending arrival. "We've never played together as pros, so it's exciting."

The two met at the age of 7, and they played together in Kiev until Vasilevski left for Canada to play junior hockey 10 years later.

"I'm happy to come here," Klimentiev said. "I know this is one of the best teams in the 'I,' so I'm looking forward to it, especially with my best friend here."

Psycho brothers - The legendary Hanson brothers - Dave Hanson and brothers Steve and Jeff Carlson - and Ned Dowd, who played Ogie Oglethorp, will be in Austin on Oct. 19 for a special screening of "Slap Shot."

The 1977 movie will be the closing attraction of the Austin Film Festival at the Paramount Theatre, 713 Congress.

Bring your toys.

Rough opener - The IHL season got off to a rocky start for Detroit as the scoreboard at the Palace of Auburn Hills didn't work for Friday's opener against Utah, then the Zamboni dropped hot water on the ice behind the home goal during the first intermission, leading to a 42-minute delay. Oh, the Vipers also lost 3-1.

In closing - Aeros coach Dave Barr had this reaction when asked what it was like to be a head coach for the first time after last Friday's 2-1 loss to Kansas City: "I knew I'd be disappointed if we lost and happy if we won, so my expectations were met."