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Draft is latest victim of impasse
By TOM JONES
Published March 25, 2005
First the NHL All-Star Game was canceled. Then the 2004-05 season was wiped out. Now hockey's labor mess is extending into the summer.
The NHL on Thursday canceled the entry draft, originally scheduled June 25-26 in Ottawa.
The league made the announcement because Ottawa area hotels required advance confirmation for more than 4,000 rooms to accommodate league staff, media, junior players and their families.
"In the absence of a collective-bargaining agreement, we are not able to conduct an entry draft in the traditional sense on the dates scheduled," said NHL executive vice president and chief legal officer Bill Daly, who apologized to the city of Ottawa and NHL fans.
When a collective-bargaining agreement is reached, the league can schedule a draft. However, rather than being the usual staged event, it likely will conducted via conference call.
The league has not determined when Ottawa would host a draft, but it will by 2008.
The 2005 draft was to be one of the most anticipated in years because of Sidney Crosby, the expected first pick. The 5-foot-10, 175-pound center led the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League with 66 goals and 102 assists. He is considered a franchise player and one of the top prospects ever, along the lines of Mario Lemieux and Eric Lindros.
"I'm disappointed to hear that the NHL has canceled the draft," Crosby said. "Although I knew this could be a possibility, given the current situation, I feel bad for all of the players who worked so hard to get to this point.
Normally, the draft order is based on the previous season's standings, but because there is no season, it is not known how the order will be determined.
Meantime, the NHL Players' Association wrapped up three days of meeting Thursday after rejecting two league proposals last week. The union is expected to make the next move in the negotiations, but it isn't known when that will be.
Information from the Associated Press was used in this report.