Draft knocked cold

BRUCE GARRIOCH -- Ottawa Sun

, Last Updated: 11:53 AM ET

Sidney Crosby is disappointed he won't get the chance to learn his NHL destination this summer in Ottawa. But the Rimouski Oceanic star said yesterday there's not much he can do now that the NHL entry draft set for June 25-26 at the Corel Centre has been cancelled, other than to focus on the QMJHL playoffs. He'll worry about next year once his season is over.

"I am disappointed to hear that the NHL has cancelled the draft," Crosby said in a statement released through his agent Pat Brisson. "Although I knew this could be a possibility given the current situation.

"I feel bad for all the players who have worked so hard to get to this point. All of us had been looking forward to having our names called in Ottawa. Unfortunately, this is something that is out of our control.

"For now, my focus remains on helping the Rimouski Oceanic reach our goal of playing in the Memorial Cup."

With Ottawa hotels anxious to find out whether they can try to book the 4,500 rooms set aside for the draft, league VP Bill Daly said last night, "We couldn't take it beyond this week or we would have been on the hook for the rooms."

"This is disappointing. I can't say I'm surprised, either. We were aware this was something that could happen," said Senators president and CEO Roy Mlakar. "We just felt this would have been fabulous for the city of Ottawa. We were ready to go. We had everything in place. This is an event that would have been great for everybody involved."

2008 DRAFT HERE?

Daly said it's possible the Senators will be awarded the 2008 draft. The 2006 and 2007 drafts have already been committed but not announced.

That, however, does little to soothe the cancellation of the Crosby draft.

"I'd be lying if I didn't say we approached the league about the possibility of holding the draft when Eugene Melnyk took over and we had this draft in mind," said Mlakar.

"We just thought it would be great for the people in Ottawa to see Sidney Crosby march down the aisle and (put on) his NHL jersey for the first time."

Mlakar said if a miracle CBA was reached in time to have a draft, Ottawa officials would do everything possible to host the event.

"If we're asked by the NHL to hold a draft, we would try and become as helpful as possible," said Mlakar.

DIAL UP FOR PICKS

Sources say it's more likely once a new deal is in place, the league will conduct its draft by telephone or hold a two-round draft in Ottawa.

"We feel badly because we know a lot of people in Ottawa have worked hard and this event would have been a huge success," said Daly. "Quite frankly, everything in this whole lockout situation has been disappointing for everybody involved."

bruce.garrioch@ott.sunpub.com


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