Martin Brodeur returned his goalie stick to the rack and calmed the fears of a hockey-crazed nation.

"Well, I made it through practice," Canada's top net-minder said yesterday in Toronto, where his team was practicing for tonight's World Cup of Hockey final against Finland.

Brodeur was on the ice for the first time in four days and his injured left wrist came through a full workout just fine. If his sore catching hand keeps improving, Brodeur is expected to return from a one-game absence and play tonight.

"For the first time in five or six days I was able to use it," said Brodeur, who has allowed only three goals on 100 shots in four games.

If he doesn't get into this game, it might be a long time before he suits up again.

The NHL's collective bargaining agreement with the players' association expires tomorrow, and with the sides far apart and no negotiating sessions scheduled, a lockout that threatens the coming season and beyond is on the verge of becoming reality.

"Hopefully, they can come up with a compromise that everyone's happy with because it would be great to see us keep playing hockey," Wayne Gretzky said.

Brodeur was hurt last Wednesday during the closing minutes of a 5-0 quarterfinal victory over Slovakia when he made an awkward catch of a shot from center ice. The force jammed his arm toward his body and left him with an injury described as a sprain. He practiced briefly Friday and sat out Canada's 4-3 overtime win against the Czech Republic on Saturday.

Roberto Luongo made 37 saves in Brodeur's absence, but he split time in the backup role yesterday with Jose Theodore.

-- From News Services

Martin Brodeur, who yielded only three goals in four games before spraining his left wrist last week, loosens up in preparation for tonight's championship.