Locked Out: NHL closes doors, “We had no choice,” says Bettman

At a Wednesday press conference from the league’s New York offices, National Hockey League comissioner Gary Bettman announced that the Board of Governors unanimously voted to institute a lockout of the players, putting the 2004-2005 NHL season on hold.

The league could not agree to terms for a new collective bargaining agreement with the National Hockey League Players Association, which lead to the lockout.

Bettman claims that the NHL has lost $1.8 billion over the 10 years of the existing collective bargaining agreement and $224 million last season alone.

From Toronto, NHLPA executive director Bob Goodenow dismissed the league’s claims.

“Yes, players do make a lot of money,” he told reporters. “Players deserve what the owners decide that they’re worth.”

The league is demanding that a salary cap be a part of the next CBA. Goodenow calls it a “non-starter.”

Bettman said that the union was “instigating a fight. They think they can win this fight. And that will get them to keep the most. They’re wrong. And time will tell. And time will show.”

Goodenow responded, “That’s just absolutely ridiculous. He never once acknowledged, not that he would, that we came forward well over a year ago with very meaningful proposals. He recited a number of times erroneously through his comments that we haven’t acknowledged some of the issues when in fact we most definitely have.”

Bettman says that 20 teams lost money last season. One of those teams, the Vancouver Canucks, were recently reported as having made $25 million Canadian last season.

Yzerman to Return for 22nd Season

If an NHL season is played in 2004-2005, Detroit Red Wings captain Steve Yzerman will be a part of it. The NHL’s longest-serving captain signed a one-year deal with the Red Wings on Tuesday. As per club policy, financial terms were not disclosed.

Yzerman, Detroit captain for the last 19 years, did not play in the team’s final game last season as the Calgary Flames eliminated them from the Stanley Cup Playoffs. Due to an eye injury suffered in Game Five of that series, Yzerman also declined his spot on the Canadian World Cup team, which claimed the championship on Tuesday night.

“We are all very pleased to have Steve back for one more year,” Detroit general manager Ken Holland said. “He brings a great deal of dedication, skill and leadership abilities to our hockey club, and I feel his competitive nature will greatly help this team remain successful.”

With most NHL followers expecting the owners to initiate a lockout when the collective bargaining agreement between the league and the players’ association expires at midnight on Wednesday, the status of the 2004-2005 season is in flux. The Red Wings still have three players left to sign – defensemen Chris Chelios and Mathieu Schneider and forward Pavel Datsyuk – before the deadline, otherwise they will have to wait until a new CBA is negotiated.

Canada Defeats Finland to Claim World Cup Championship

Team Canada’s checking line of Shane Doan, Kris Draper and Joe Thornton produced two goals and held Finland’s top line to none as Canada claimed the 2004 World Cup with a 3-2 win. The eventual game-winner was scored by Doan just 34 seconds into the third period.

Canada’s top linescored the game’s first goal 52 seconds into the first period, when Mario Lemieux fed Joe Sakic for a quick shot from the slot that beat Finnish goalie Miikka Kiprusoff.

Finland responded at 6:34 when a Toni Lydman shot was deflected by Riku Hahl past Canadian netminder Martin Brodeur.

Canada regained the lead when Kiprusoff let a “soft” goal by Scott Niedermayer into the net at 3:15 of the second. The goal, assisted by Draper and Thornton, came without a screen on an innocent-looking shot from along the left-side boards.

Finland bounced back again when Tuomo Ruutu slipped past three Canadian defenders and beat Brodeur at the 19-minute mark of the second period.

Doan’s game-winner came early in the third as he got the puck in front of the net and skated from one side of the crease to the other, finding an opening to the side of the sprawling Kiprusoff.

With the win, Canada is now the defending champion of the Olympics, World Championships and the World Cup.

Team USA Falls to Finns in World Cup Semifinal

The Americans scored first in their World Cup of Hockey semifinal matchup with Finland on Friday but for the first time in the tourney the first goal wasn’t enough as the Finns scored twice in the third period to rally for the win. It was the first time in the tournament that a lead-change occured.

Finland now awaits the winner of the Canada-Czech Republic matchup on Saturday night.

The United States opened the game’s scoring in the second period during a stretch of particularly dominating play. Team USA captain crushed Finland’s Ville Nieminnen into the glass and the St. Paul crowd got into the game with deafening chants of “U-S-A! U-S-A!” Just minutes later, while on a power play, Doug Weight drove to the net untouched and deflected a perfect pass from Scott Gomez past netminder Miikka Kiprusoff with 7:03 remaining in the period.

The Americans would give up the lead in the game’s final frame.

Olli Jokinen slapped a rebound from the slot by goaltender Robert Esche just 5:04 into the third and killed any momentum Team USA had.

Saku Koivu was left all alone in front of the net with 3:54 left to play and made the Americans pay, stuffing the puck past Esche to put the Finns up by a goal.

Even with a power play, Esche on the bench for an extra attacker, and Kiprusoff’s stick lying on the ice out of the reach of Finland’s goalie, the United States couldn’t get control of the game and were unable to score.

“We made a couple of mistakes in the third period, and that was the difference,” American coach Ron Wilson said. “That was a tight hockey game. We only gave up 12 shots on goal and found a way to lose. Unfortunately, that’s the way it goes.”

Tkachuk Scores Four as US Defeats Russia, 5-3

Keith Tkachuk scored four goals and added an assist Tuesday night, carrying Team USA to a 5-3 win over Team Russia in the World Cup of Hockey quarterfinals.

The third-seeded American squad had lost their preliminary round matchup with the Russians by the score of 3-1.

Tkachuk opened the game’s scoring by tipping a Mike Modano backhand shot between the legs of Russian netminder Ilya Bryzgalov with 8:40 remaining in the first period.

Just 1:56 into the second period, Tkachuk struck again when he took a pass from Bill Guerin in front of the net and drove the puck by Bryzgalov.

The Russians evened the game on goals by Dmitry Afanasenkov and Danius Zubrus.

Scott Gomez scored off the rebound of a Tkachuk shot at 4:25 of the third and 22 seconds later Tkachuk got the hat trick by redirecting a pass from Guerin at the side of the net.

Ilya Kovalchuk scored on the power play to bring Russia within a goal but it wouldn’t be enough.

Tkachuk’s fourth goal of the night came with the Russian net empty and 55 seconds left to play.

The United States now advances to the semifinals, where they will face either the Czech Republic or Finland, depending on the result of the Canada-Slovakia matchup on Wednesday night.

In the first quarterfinal game of the tournament, Finland held off a hungry German team to earn a late 2-1 victory on Monday. The Czech Republic capitalized on weak Swedish goaltending to pick up a 6-1 win in Tuesday’s early game.

Team USA Finally Earns a Win, Defeats Slovakia 3-1

Team USA earned their only win of the round-robin portion of the World Cup of Hockey on Friday, defeating Slovakia by a score of 3-1 in their final match before the quarterfinals.

After playing uninspired hockey against Canada and Russia, the United States had “earned” an 0-2 record. Coach Ron Wilson scratched five players, including future Hall-of-Famer Brett Hull, and the team came out with more energy from the start of the game.

Brian Smolinski, one of the five players added to the lineup, scored on a power play just 3:09 into the game. Smolinski knocked a rebound out of the air and put the puck past Slovak goaltender Jan Lasak.

“It was a weird bounce on a power play and I just outmuscled my guy,” said Smolinski.

Ladislav Nagy tied the game at 11:24 of the first, also with the man-advantage.

The eventual game-winner was scored by Jason Blake on a disputed play. Blake fell to the ice while skating towards the goal. A Chris Chelios pass hit him as he slid along and his body carried the puck into the net. The play was reviewed and the goal was allowed to stand.

American netminder Rick DiPietro, making his first start of the tournament to allow Robert Esche to rest, preserved the lead with timely saves.

Lasak kept the Slovaks in the game until Bill Guerin scored from his backhand on a breakaway with 3:43 remaining in the game.

“We had an emotional game in Canada and a bit of a hangover against Russia,” forward Keith Tkachuk said after the game. “This was a much better effort. We have to play our style – up together and back together, chipping it in and grinding it out.”

The United States finished the preliminary round with a 1-2 record. Slovakia is currently 0-2 while Canada is 2-0 and Russia is 1-0. In Friday’s European game, the Czech Republic defeated Germany by the score of 7-2.

Uninspired Team USA Drops to 0-2

Team USA came out flat in the first period of their 2-1 loss to Team Canada on Tuesday night and never recovered. On Thursday night, they came out flat again and dropped a 3-1 decision to Team Russia in St. Paul.

On Tuesday, the Americans were outshot 19-6 in the first period. The Russians managed 16 shots to the Americans’ four in the first period on Thursday.

U.S. coach Ron Wilson announced that roster changes would be made for the final round-robin game against Slovakia on Friday.

“For some reason we’re emotionally flat, and we’ve got to put in some people who will be really hungry and believe if they get the job done they’ll stay in the lineup,” Wilson said.

Team Russia took the first lead of the game at 12:20 of the second period on a goal by Danius Zubrus, who deflected a shot off the skate of U.S. captain Chris Chelios.

Keith Tkachuk tied the game for the Americans’ just 1:24 later but Alexei Kovalev put the Russians back on top just 5:05 into the third.

Viktor Kozlov added an insurance goal for Russia with 1:58 remaining.

“We’re really embarrassed the way we came out and played this hockey game,” Tkachuk said.

“They came out and just took it to us early. It’s very frustrating to see us play the way we did that whole game. It’s just not our hockey. We’ve got to turn this around.”

On Wednesday, Canada defeated Slovakia, 5-1, while Sweden held off the Czech Republic for a 4-3 win. Thursday’s European matchup saw Finland continue their shutout streak with a 3-0 win over Germany.

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