Melnyk ready to cast his vote -- for Euro expansion

CHRIS STEVENSON, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 8:38 AM ET

STOCKHOLM -- Eugene Melnyk left no doubt yesterday where he stands on NHL expansion to Europe.

It's going to happen, said the Senators owner, it's just a matter of when.

"It's just a question of time. It's a question of how we can set up a schedule. You can see the fan response here in Sweden. They're almost as crazy as us Canadians. In Gothenburg they are crazier than they are anywhere. They love their hockey. There are other countries where, I think, the product could be marketed and we could make a run at it," he said.

"I'd be a huge supporter of expansion into Europe. I was three or four years ago and now, absolutely, irrevocably, I am committed that my vote is in for European expansion."

Melnyk's enthusiastic revelation caught NHL commissioner Gary Bettman off-guard at a joint press conference with NHLPA executive director Paul Kelly.

"Mr. Melnyk may be of the view that it is inevitable as the world continues to shrink, that we will get to that place, and as I said, he may be right. But it isn't anything that is consistent with any plans that we've developed or any current intentions that we have," said Bettman.

Meanwhile, the NHL's participation in the Olympics remains cloudy beyond 2010 in Vancouver. NHL owners don't like the disruption it causes to their season and the fact some teams have a disproportionate number of players participating can disrupt competitive balance for the remainder of the season.

"We're going to have to make a decision as to whether or not the Olympics is something that gives us benefits that at least equals if not exceeds the detriments disrupting the season has," said Bettman.

Said Kelly: "We recognize some of the business considerations Gary has just touched on. But at the end of the day players strongly favour international competition. They favour the Olympics. They favour the World Cup. They favour participation in the world championships."

Translation: The players want it; the owners are at best lukewarm. Can you say poker chip? The owners will try to wring something out of the players to continue the Olympic experience.

Bettman was definitive when it came to the World Cup of Hockey, which looks like it be will resurrected by the NHL in 2011 and will take place every four years.

HEAR AND THERE

Melnyk characterized Saturday's meeting with captain Daniel Alfredsson and agent J.P. Barry to discuss a contract extension as "excellent." "There's a lot of things to consider from both sides, especially since it's a little nerve-wracking with what happened in the global financial markets over the last couple of weeks. We do need to see what's going to happen with attendance numbers across the league and how that will affect the cap. That's the key. As far as Daniel being part of the organization, I want him to be a Senator for life. The good news is that everybody is realistic and saying 'Where's the world going?' " said Melnyk ... Alfredsson left the ice and gave away almost everything but his jock to fans. "We're collecting $50 a man," said linemate Jason Spezza, "so Alfie can buy new equipment."

REVELATIONS

That didn't take long, did it? Miro Satan is already off the Sidney Crosby line ... Speaking of Crosby, I was looking at the sticks he had beside his locker. They are almost perfectly straight blades. There's some talk in the Penguins camp he might have a special power-play pattern with more curve, which would help his shot. Pittsburgh's Evgeni Malkin already uses a different stick on the power play. It's longer ... Senators rookie Jesse Winchester is looking better with each game. He's strong on his skates and doesn't give the puck up easily.

SPECULATIONS

Too bad for Senators goaltender Alex Auld, losing his shutout bid with two seconds left. "It would have been nice. I'm not going to play it that cool," said Auld ... Broadcaster Gord Wilson was going to take a picture of Sportsnet's Ian Mendes and TSN's cameraman Dave Joy and talent Brent Wallace yesterday morning while they sat on a leather coach in the dim Globe Arena basement. "I hope you have a flash on that camera," said Mendes, "or I'm not going to show up."

THE BUZZ

Something you don't see much in Stockholm? A guy wearing an Expos hat. Come to think of it, you don't see that much anywhere, including Montreal. It was Jason O'Hanley of Charlottetown, who was laid off by Pepsi and used his severance to come here for the games. Now that's a fan ... Being interviewed up on the big screen yesterday: Former Senator Andreas Dackell. He said more in Swedish than I heard him say in English during all his time in Ottawa. He's still playing in Sweden ... Also stopping by was Magnus "The Machine" Arvedson. He's coaching in the second division.

JUST WONDERING

Yesterday morning there was an optional skate for the Penguins. Who was out there? Crosby, who had played 24 minutes on Saturday. You don't have to wonder why the kid is that good.

PARTING SHOT

The Globe Arena is apparently the largest spherical structure in the world. I thought that was John Daly.


Videos

Photos