The NHL fined one of the owners of the Atlanta Thrashers $250,000 yesterday for saying the league would use replacement players next year if a new collective bargaining agreement isn't reached, the Associated Press has learned.
Steve Belkin, a member of Atlanta Spirit LLC -- the group that bought the Thrashers earlier this year -- was given the hefty fine for comments he made over the weekend to the Boston Herald, said an official within the league speaking on the condition of anonymity.
"I deeply regret the comments I made to the Boston Herald, which were my personal, uninformed views, and not those of the Atlanta Thrashers' ownership and management -- nor those of the National Hockey League," Belkin said in a statement.
Belkin, a Weston, Mass., businessman, said the NHL had a solution for next fall if a new collective bargaining agreement wasn't reached.
"We are going to try everything we can to resolve this," Belkin told the newspaper in its Sunday editions. "If we reach an impasse and it goes on for a year, we will attempt to bring in other players. That's not good for anyone. That's a last resort."
* PRO BASKETBALL: Phil Jackson called his relationship with Kobe Bryant at times a "psychological war" and sought to trade his star guard in January, according to a diary of the former Lakers coach.
The diary of the 2003-04 season, titled "The Last Season: A Team in Search of Its Soul," will be released this month. An excerpt of the book will be published in next week's issue of Los Angeles magazine.
Jackson said the strain between him and Bryant led him to hire a therapist to consult with during the season, according to the Los Angeles Times, which printed excerpts from the magazine article in yesterday's editions.
* NASCAR: Two-time NASCAR champion Terry Labonte will race a limited schedule in 2005 and '06, joining the growing list of veteran drivers slowly easing out of racing.
Labonte, 47, is scheduled to run about 10 races next season in the No. 44 Chevrolet, followed by 10 races in 2006 in what will be his final season.
Kyle Busch will take Labonte's spot and is to run a full-time Nextel Cup schedule in 2005.
* FOOTBALL: Wide receiver Mike Williams, turned down in his attempt to return to play at Southern California after the courts kept him out of the NFL draft, has hired an agent -- again. Williams, expected to be a first-round draft pick next April, will be represented by Tony Fleming and Mitch Frankel of Impact Sports Management.
-- From News Services