Event, city impress NHL boss

MORRIS DALLA COSTA -- London Free Press

, Last Updated: 8:11 AM ET

Until the National Hockey League lockout is settled, it's difficult to imagine anyone involved in the negotiations being able to forget them, even for one night.

But last night most of the head honchos of the NHL at least tried, taking in the Rimouski Oceanic-Ottawa 67's Memorial Cup game at the John Labatt Centre.

NHL commissioner Gary Bettman was joined by other league executives, including Tillsonburg native Colin Campbell, executive vice-president and director of hockey operations.

Bettman watched the young man who will eventually become the next franchise player in his league, Sidney Crosby. When that will happen remains a much-asked question.

But Bettman, who was making his first trip to a Memorial Cup, was impressed with what was happening around him.

"This is the first opportunity I've had to see a Memorial Cup, which is a great event, because we are usually in the playoffs around this time," he said.

"London clearly has done a great job hosting. The building is wonderful.

"I haven't seen as much junior hockey as I would like. I have a dish and I do manage to see games because of that. It's nice to have a chance to see them live."

The suggestion that there was at least one good thing that's come of the lockout brought a quick response.

"I don't want anything misconstrued," he said. "There are no good things (that have come because of the lockout.) But there are opportunities to do things we wouldn't normally get a chance to do."

Last night will be the only opportunity Bettman has to see a Memorial Cup game this year, then it will be "back to the grind."

For Campbell, the Memorial Cup recalls special memories. He played in the tournament in 1972 with the Peterborough Petes, a Memorial Cup won by the Cornwall Royals. His son Gregory played with the Memorial Cup champion Kitchener Rangers in 2003.

"The Memorial Cup is one of the toughest championships to win," Campbell said. "When it's one game, anything can happen."

As for Bettman, he enjoyed his stay in London.

"It's fun to see a city of 300,000 people turn itself over to host a great hockey event," he said. "Everybody here can be very proud of the great job that's been done.

"It's a celebration of hockey. It's something hockey can use right now."


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