NHL set to be bad news bearers

TERRY KOSHAN -- Toronto Sun

, Last Updated: 7:02 AM ET

Wayne Gretzky had no interest in discussing today's impending NHL lockout after Canada's World Cup title win but had some things to say that carried weight. "I would highly recommend to Bob (Nicholson, the president of Hockey Canada) I am not the right guy to run this team if it is an amateur group of players," Gretzky said last night when he was asked about resuming his role as executive director if NHL players don't take part in the 2006 Winter Olympics in Turin, Italy.

"I would serve in an advisory capacity ... we'll cross that bridge (later)."

When Gretzky, a managing partner of the Phoenix Coyotes, was asked about facing the lockout and the turmoil that undoubtedly will go with it, he didn't bite.

"I don't even want to think about it," Gretzky said.

He won't have much choice today. NHL commissioner Gary Bettman will announce at 2:30 p.m. that the players will be locked out by the NHL owners at midnight tonight, when the collective bargaining agreement expires.

The league, citing losses in millions of dollars, wants a salary cap. The NHL Players' Association wants nothing to do with a cap, but has offered a deal that would include a luxury tax. Neither side is budging from its stance, and no negotiations are planned.

As chairman and chief executive officer of the Pittsburgh Penguins, Mario Lemieux is in an odd spot.

His World Cup mates could become his adversaries today.

"We're supposed to be partners," Lemieux said. "It's not a question of going to war or winning a battle. It's a question of what makes sense for business and for the players."

One player who figured the longer a lockout drags on the more drastic the changes should be when the NHL resumes was Philadelphia Flyers forward Jeremy Roenick.

"Our game is at a point where people are bored watching it," Roenick said.

"There has to be a radical change."


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