Notebook: Mario says time running out, in more ways than one.
Mario Lemieux is out of the Penguins’ lineup, but he’ll be keeping close tabs on whether the team is able to make some headway in the standings without him.
Lemieux, who spoke publicly on Saturday for the first time since being hospitalized and released for an irregular heartbeat earlier this week, said the team is running out of time to turn things around.
“If you look at the standings, it’s going to be difficult to get back in there,” he said of the Penguins, in last place in the Eastern Conference and 13 points behind the eighth-place Toronto Maple Leafs going into last night’s game. “But if we can put some wins together and get some confidence back, with the players we have, we can still do OK.”
But the Penguins aren’t just running out of time on the ice. With the team’s lease at Mellon Arena expiring in 2007 and the slots license the Penguins want to help fund a new arena still up for grabs, Lemieux said yesterday there will be a board of directors meeting next week to discuss the uncertain future of the franchise.
“Maybe we have run out of time,” said Lemieux, who for years has said that without a new arena the team cannot survive in Pittsburgh. “That’s something we’ll have to decide as investors. We have a board of directors meeting next week. We’ll sit down with everybody and understand what’s at stake for our investment and what’s best for the franchise.”
In June, Lemieux agreed to sell his majority interest in the Penguins to 37-year-old venture capitalist William “Boots” Del Biaggio III. Those plans changed after the NHL lockout ended and the Penguins won the lottery to draft Sidney Crosby, with Lemieux retaining majority ownership and Del Biaggio coming on as an investor.
Several cities have expressed an interest in having the Penguins relocate there, including Kansas City. Tim Leiweke, president of the Anschutz Entertainment Group, which owns the Los Angeles Kings, told a Kansas City newspaper in November that the Pittsburgh Penguins could be the Kansas City Penguins, “no question about it.” The city has a brand new 18,500-seat arena opening in 2007 and is looking for tenants.
Crosby: Not a try-out
Sidney Crosby said that representing Canada in the Winter Olympics in Turin, Italy, in February would be a dream come true for him. But he said he wasn’t approaching last night’s game against the Colorado Avalanche as an audition just because Team Canada executive director Wayne Gretzky and top aides Marc Habscheid and Steve Tambellini were in attendance to scout him.
“I don’t think one game’s going to make a huge difference,” said Crosby, who is being considered along with the Carolina Hurricanes’ Eric Staal and Ottawa Senators Jason Spezza. “If I approach it like a normal game and play hard, hopefully, it will make a good impression but by no means is it a one-game tryout or anything like that.”
Karen Price is a former freelancer.