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Lemieux to Play 17th Season When NHL Lockout Is Over

Saturday, October 2, 2004; Page D02

Pittsburgh Penguins owner and star player Mario Lemieux said he "definitely" will return for a 17th season when the NHL resumes play. What the Hall of Famer couldn't say is whether that's going to happen anytime soon.

"I'm just going to sit back and wait for a new [collective bargaining agreement], like everyone else," Lemieux said, referring to the two-week-old owners' lockout that already has canceled the preseason and all of October's games. "It's a tough position to be in, especially after all the great hockey that was played in the World Cup."

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Lemieux, who turns 39 on Tuesday, and Luc Robitaille of the Los Angeles Kings, were in McLean yesterday to promote the launch of the Players Edge Performance Center, a high-tech athletic training facility inside Tysons Sport & Health Club.

"I am sure that I'll be playing," he added, "whenever hockey is back. Definitely."

Lemieux wasn't able to comment on the lockout because the league has asked owners not to discuss the negotiations publicly. Robitaille, however, is bound by no such restrictions.

"I don't see the light at the end of the tunnel," said Robitaille, a likely Hall of Famer who has a year remaining on his contract with the Kings. "We don't really know what is going to happen. It's just sad to see what is going on, especially in the United States where you want the game to grow. We've struggled marketing the game in the past few years. And this is not helping at all.

"I'm a firm believer in this. We have made our stand. We'll deal with anything except a hard cap. But that's the only thing the owners want, a cap. If talks keep going that way, it's going to last a long time."

Despite the bleak outlook, Robitaille managed to crack a joke about the company he is keeping while visiting the Washington area: "I keep saying, 'the greedy owners.' Mario keeps saying, 'the greedy players.' We're just having fun about that, since there's nothing we can do about it ourselves."

-- Tarik El-Bashir

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