It's the Pitts for hockey's new phenom

ERIN NICKS -- Ottawa Sun

, Last Updated: 12:48 PM ET

It has yet to be formally announced, but a sequel to Flatliners is about to be produced.

However, the stars this time around won't be Julia Roberts and Kiefer Sutherland, but Mario Lemieux and Sidney Crosby.

When Friday's draft lottery took place in a sequestered room at the Sheraton Hotel and Towers in New York, speculation abounded as to where Crosby would finally end up.

As TSN's Bob McKenzie stated at the conclusion of the lottery broadcast, it appeared that the ping-pong ball machine did indeed "have a conscience."

Everyone wanted Crosby, but Pittsburgh needed the young phenom. They needed him to ensure the continuation of its franchise and to secure the funds to construct a new arena in the city.

Do you think Reebok could produce a special lead Penguins jersey for Sid to slip on during Saturday's draft in Ottawa? It would make for one hell of a metaphor.

Now to be fair, Crosby has previously dealt with a supreme amount of pressure for someone so young.

With the NHL virtually non-existent for the past year, enormous attention was focused on his play with the Rimouski Oceanic and he passed that test with flying colours -- even bringing his team to the final of the Memorial Cup.

But the NHL is a different league, with different standards.

Pittsburgh's franchise is in a highly precarious position and can only be brought back from the brink of death so many times.

Lemieux initially resuscitated the team when the Penguins drafted him 21 years ago. He did it again in 1999, when he forged an ownership group to rescue the team from bankruptcy, and then helping to restore interest by returning to the team as a player/owner, not long afterward.

A noble effort to be sure, but should Crosby be subjected to the same difficulties? This is old hat for Mario, and obviously there will be no better tutor for the budding superstar.

The NHL is already relying on Crosby to renew interest in the sport -- now he has to single-handedly help save his potential franchise?

And how difficult must it have been for Winnipeg or Quebec City fans to watch the Penguins snag Crosby?

Pittsburgh would have been a good candidate to relocate in Canada should the option have been available. Had Anaheim received the first-overall pick, it would have taken no more than 10 home games to discern whether Pittsburgh was going to survive. That will be the case in Carolina, Buffalo, and other markets facing difficulties.

Bluntly put, the Penguins are going to whore Crosby for all it's worth. It will be a long and drawn-out experiment where failure is not an option.

But one is left to wonder just how many chances Pittsburgh deserves to prove its interest in the sport -- second phenom or not.

How many chances did Winnipeg or Quebec receive?

You can rest assured that they'd love to have a crack at that franchise. Crosby would simply be one hell of a bonus.

DOWN THE TUBES: According to Mediaweek.com, the NHL has entered into discussions with four networks interested in securing the cable broadcasting rights -- ESPN, Comcast, Turner and Viacom's Spike TV. So let's look at this objectively: ESPN treats NHL reporting as a warped version of An Evening at the Improv; Comcast would potentially air the games on the Outdoor Life Network; Turner would slot the league behind Atlanta Braves baseball and repeated showings of Tommy Boy; and Spike TV's biggest selling points are CSI marathons or Japanese game shows. It all sounds very promising.

SIDE LINES: It was likely that NHLPA executive director Bob Goodenow and NHL commissioner Gary Bettman weren't going to appear in "Game On" hats during their joint news conference on Thursday. However, a couple of respective "I'm with stupid" T-shirts might've been a nice gesture ... NFL agent Drew Rosenhaus saved the life of a four-year-old boy, who was drowning in a pool in Orlando. Seeing as Rosenhaus is the devil's cabana boy, it's a wonder the water didn't begin to boil immediately after he dove in ... When you haven't any worthy news to report, do as the Los Angeles Clippers did and announce the names of your upcoming dance team for the year. We should be getting a rundown of the Buffalo Sabres' Ice Girls list any day now.


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