The most pressing issue facing the National Hockey League -- the state of the Pittsburgh Penguins, whose fate will be decided in bankruptcy court -- will not be resolved until later this month. Still, NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman this morning said league officials are working on three scenarios for next season's schedule: one that includes keeping the Penguins in Pittsburgh, one that includes relocating and one in case the team is folded.
The league already has endorsed a bid by Hall of Famer Mario Lemieux to buy the team and keep it in Pittsburgh. Judge Bernard Markovitz, who is hearing the case in Pittsburgh, has set a June 24 deadline for resolving the situation.
"There is still work to be done," said Bettman, who added that next season's schedule will start around Oct. 1 and conclude sooner than this season. "We have had numerous conference calls. I was actually on one this morning, and we hope that the Lemieux plan can come together because we want the Penguins to stay in Pittsburgh."
Bettman added that league officials also are keeping a close watch on the New York Islanders, who have struggled for the past few seasons and are losing money. The team is partly owned by Howard Milstein and his brother, Edward, who failed in their recent bid to buy the NFL's Washington Redskins.
"Some groups have expressed some interest in the possibility of buying the Islanders," said Bettman, "but nothing yet that has risen to a level of saying there is a concrete proposal to sell the club."
Bettman also said league officials are wary of the Islanders gutting their team for financial reasons.
"We are going to insist . . . that assets simply not be given away or squandered simply to reduce payroll," he said.
Bettman said the International Ice Hockey Federation has set a deadline of Sept. 15 for the NHL to announce whether it will allow its players to compete in the 2002 Olympics.
Head-Butt Under Review
Bettman said league officials are considering disciplinary action for Dallas center Brian Skrudland after he head-butted Buffalo's Vaclav Varada after a whistle during Game 1. . . . Sabres left wing Michal Grosek, who injured his back when he hit the boards during his first shift in Game 1, is questionable for Game 2.