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March 14, 2005 - Lockout Notebook: A Look Ahead To The Hull Invitational

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Lockout Notebook: A Look Ahead To The Hull Invitational

If NHL-calibre hockey is what you're craving in the near future, you just might get it.

OK, while it won't quite have the intensity of an April matchup between the Flyers and Maple Leafs, the World Hockey Association's Bobby Hull Invitational tournament this May could whet our appetite just a bit.

The tourney will feature six teams that will be "hand picked" by their respective captains. Games will be held in Hamilton and Toronto on the east coast, and Vancouver out west.

Of course, keeping with the new WHA's theme of being exciting and unorthodox, the tournament will have some quirks. Teams will be awarded one point for every period won and two for every game victory. Each squad will play three matches, and a division championship will be held after that. The East winner will then play the West winner in a best-of-five series.

Players will be paid $20,000 to play in the tourney, and there will be a $2 million prize awarded to the winning team.

The WHA's hope is that this tournament will jump start the re-formed league's season next fall, especially if the NHL lockout remains in effect.

The WHA lists 60 players currently committed to playing in the Bobby Hull Invitational, and the league's website states that "more players will be added shortly."

Highlighting the current list are: Jarome Iginla, Jeremy Roenick, Nicklas Lidstrom, Keith Primeau, Anson Carter, Scott Gomez, Chris Chelios, Robert Esche and Jose Theodore.

The tournament is scheduled to begin on May 20 -- after the IIHF World Championships are held in Austria.

As for the WHA's chances of actually launching a season next fall, that remains to be seen. According to the Philadelphia Inquirer, there are 16 cities that have been targeted by the WHA, but the more likely number to start will be 10.

Ricky Smith and Mark McKelvie, who bought the WHA's trademark last fall, told the Inquirer that they already have or will have lease agreements with several arenas, including Reunion Arena in Dallas, KeyArena in Seattle and Market Square Arena in Indianapolis.

LATEST MEETING A NEW START

Friday's meeting between the NHL and NHLPA lasted only 90 minutes, and it appeared as if the two sides somewhat began anew as they head toward the hopeful resolution of this mess.

No proposals were exchanged and no real progress was made. It was more so a discussion of broad, unspecific matters. Remember, this was the first time the sides talked formally since the doomed meeting on February 19 in New York that was predicated by reports that a deal was imminent.

Now, instead of trying to save this season, the focus is on next campaign. And the NHL would love to have something signed and on paper by May so it can hold the 2005 Entry Draft and allow Sidney Crosby to begin his quest toward superstardom.

Of course, don't expect the players to rush for a deal to save the draft, as they aren't due another paycheck until fall.