Russia to Reject Transfer Deal

Russia was ready to reject a new transfer agreement with the NHL on Tuesday, in a move that would prolong a two-year boycott and could throw the game into chaos.

"Our position hasn't changed a bit," said Vladislav Tretiak, president of the Russian Ice Hockey Federation.

"The main thing is, we want the NHL to respect our contracts. If they want to take a player who is under contract, they must negotiate his release with the club."

Russia remains the only major hockey power not to sign the deal, brokered by the International Ice Hockey Federation and the NHL on Saturday.

Top officials, representing the NHL, the IIHF and Europe's seven major hockey nations discussed the final details of a new pact that would pay European clubs $200,000 for every player signed by an NHL team. The old agreement, signed in 2005, expires next month.

The IIHF believed it was close to getting the Russian federation onboard at last year's World Championship, but were rebuffed by owners of elite Russian clubs, who demanded millions of dollars in compensation for losing players like Alexander Ovechkin and Evgeni Malkin.

But Tretiak said the new deal was no different from the old.

"We don't need handouts," said the Hall of Fame goalie. "And to us a $200,000 sum is a handout. We know that players such as Malkin or Ovechkin are worth millions and we intend to fight for our rights in the courts."

"We're about to adopt a new labor law in our country, concerning professional athletes," he said. "It'll make it a lot tougher for the NHL to steal our best players," he added.

Tretiak did not shut the door on the NHL completely, hoping to find a compromise in the end. "We haven't officially informed the IIHF of our decision. We'll wait a bit longer to see if [NHL] might soften their stance," he said.

n The European ice hockey champion will meet the NHL in a new competition announced by the IIHF on Tuesday as part of its 100th anniversary celebrations next year.

The three-team tournament featuring two teams from the European Champions Cup and one NHL club is scheduled for early September next year with the winner awarded the Victoria Cup and one million Swiss francs ($823,000).

The IIHF said it hoped the tournament, which would be played annually in Europe, would eventually include the Stanley Cup winner but initially the event would have a team other than the NHL champion taking part.

Details of an ice hockey style European Champions League were also announced.

The league is scheduled to begin in 2008 with Europe's top 24 teams battling for 16.9 million Swiss francs ($14 million) and the right to play in the Victoria Cup.