It's no go for Joe

MIKE ZEISBERGER -- Toronto Sun

, Last Updated: 9:31 AM ET

There will be no Swiss bliss for Joe Nieuwendyk this winter.

When the Swiss Elite league presented him with the opportunity to head overseas weeks ago, the veteran centre politely declined. With two young children to take care of and another due in the spring, the time was not right to pack up and hit the road.

Instead, Nieuwendyk opted to remain at his Ithica, N.Y,. summer home and skate with his alma mater, the Cornell University team, which has given him the title of volunteer coach.

All the while, Nieuwendyk has been wondering what effect the potentially lengthy NHL lockout will have on fellow veterans such as Mark Messier, Scott Stevens, Chris Chelios and Steve Yzerman, who might all opt to hang up the blades for good before play resumes.

"If that happens, that would be tough," Nieuwendyk said yesterday. "Those are guys who still are really good for the game."

But as long as the Maple Leafs maintain interest in him, retirement is not an option for Nieuwendyk. At age 38, he feels strong, healthy and is champing at the bit to wear the blue and white again.

"I have no plans on leaving the game," said the Whitby native, who signed a one-year deal with Toronto during the summer. "I had one of the most enjoyable seasons of my career with the Leafs and I look forward to being there again. If that's not the case, I would look at other options."

CHARITY GAME

In the meantime, Nieuwendyk joins the likes of Keith Primeau and Jeff O'Neill for the Stars of Hockey charity game tonight at the Oshawa Civic Centre. Proceeds will go to the Shoot for a Cure program to aid spinal cord research, as well as the minor hockey systems in both Oshawa and Whitby.

"I grew up playing hockey in Whitby, so it's nice to give something back," Nieuwendyk said.

Tickets are still available through Ticketmaster.


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