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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Lemieux Out for Year; Lockout Feared

PITTSBURGH, Pennsylvania -- Ending months of speculation and anguish for Pittsburgh Penguin fans, hockey superstar Mario Lemieux formally said that anemia would prevent him from playing in the upcoming National Hockey League season.


The world-famous hockey center said Monday that several medical specialists recommended he sit out the season due to anaemia, brought on by radiation treatment he received for Hodgkin's disease.


Lemieux, who also is bothered by chronic back problems, was diagnosed with the disease last January and there had been speculation that he would not play this year.


"I still love the game of hockey. This is not a hockey issue but a health issue," he said. "At the end of one year, I will sit down with my doctors and re-evaluate my position. In the upcoming year, I will be resting most of the time, trying to keep in shape and hopefully start training for next season."


The Canadian-born athlete, often called the world's greatest hockey player, was joined at the press conference by Penguin's chairman of the board Howard Baldwin, his agent Tom Reich and the team's coach, Edward Johnson.


"It was mutually agreed that Mario should reevaluate his condition, take the year off, relax and rehabilitate until next summer," said Baldwin in a news release.


Answering questions asked both in English and in French from members of the American and Canadian press, the 28-year-old Lemieux was calm and composed.


"There is a strong possibility I will be back in one year," he said. "If I feel I can play 60 games a year the way I want to play, then I'll play. It's still in my blood."


Many fans had said they felt betrayed by their hero, particularly after seeing him looking rested and healthy playing in celebrity golf tournaments this summer.


Nonetheless, Penguins' chairman Baldwin said he was upbeat about ticket sales. "We feel we have a good team. There's no question we would love to have Mario, but if fans are thinking about jumping off the bandwagon, I'll talk to them personally."


In other hockey news, amidst the possibility of an impending training camp lockout by National Hockey League teams, commissioner Gary Bettman said it would be "business as usual" when players take the ice this week.


"We're trying to make a deal," Bettman said Monday in a statement from his New York office. "Our goal is to make a deal. As far as any other issues are concerned, we are operating on a day-to-day basis as if it were business as usual."


The other issues Bettman referred to apparently included the growing sentiment among NHL players that owners would lock them out of training camp when teams start reporting on Thursday unless a new collective bargaining agreement is reached.


"A strike or lockout is a distinct possibility," said Mike Gartner of the Toronto Maple Leafs, president of the NHL Players Association. "I hope neither one of them happens, but they are possibilities when both sides can't come to an agreement."


Gartner said there were "different talks going on on a very informal basis right now" between the NHLPA and the league, but nothing serious.


The "salary cap" has become a dirty phrase as far as both sides are concerned -- for different reasons.


Salaries are the main sticking point in the stalled negotiations. Owners, steadfastly refusing to call it a salary cap, are seeking to tie salaries to team revenues. The NHLPA seeks to have salaries set by the open market. The players' ultimate goal: free agency, something owners have rejected wholeheartedly in negotiations of past years.


(AP, Reuters)