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Hull makes more enemies with Lemieux comments

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Posted: Sunday February 04, 2001 1:36 PM

  Mario Lemieux Brett Hull says that Mario Lemieux, above, is the only player with enough star power to fill an arena. Jonathan Daniel/Allsport

By Robert Rodriguez, CNNSI.com

DENVER - The talk of the town this morning continues to revolve about Brett Hull's comments during the media session.

The Stars' winger, not one to shy from expressing what he thinks, told reporters that Mario Lemieux was the only player in the NHL who can fill a building. He also said the league does not like players with personalities, so they can sell themselves so the fans might want to go and watch them play.

"I've never seen an ocean without waves, or it wouldn't be an ocean," Hull said. "People have to raise issues so people can think about them."

Hull makes a strong argument. Lemieux's return has drawn standing-room only crowds in woeful attendance places such Washington, Phoenix and Atlanta. The best team in the league, Colorado, might sell out some venues, but not one player other than Super Mario has come close to the draw he attracts at every city.

"I certainly share his views, and he is doing this for the good of the game," Lemieux said. "He loves the game and has been around since he was a little boy. I certainly appreciate what he said."

NHL commissioner Gary Bettman seemed not so thrilled by Hull's comments.

"We don't sit on the players' lips," Bettman said. "We don't tell them what to say. I think our players are very accessible.

"They even say some things that make me grimace," Bettman added. "But that is OK. It is part of the individuals they are in a team sport, and we encourage our players to be forthcoming and to be accessible to the media."

Opening faceoff gets tense

It will be an odd sight, but one the local fans won't miss: Forsberg versus Sakic. When the opening puck drops, the two Colorado players will face off against one another. Yes, they might have done it a time or two in practice, but this will be different.

"Oh, I'm going to get him," Forsberg told the Denver Post with a grin. "I have to beat him. I'll pay off the ref if need be."

Sakic downplayed the faceoff in hopes of causing controversy. "I don't want to go to war right from the first faceoff," he said. "But I'm sure Peter and I are going to have something going on between us. I'll even spear if I have to."

More trash talk

If Forsberg wants to get into a trash-talking war, another teammate of his, Patrick Roy, is all for it. Roy will be the North America's team starting goaltender and could see a puck or two coming his way courtesy of Forsberg.

"He has a hard time scoring in practice," Roy said. "I could hardly see how he's going to put one in during the game."

Welcome to the league, kid

Philadelphia's Simon Gagne once played for a Canadian junior team that Roy was a part-owner of. Gagne remembers the first time he played in Colorado.

"I was close to the red line and Patrick said, 'Hey, go back to the junior league! We need you!'. It was pretty special to hear him say that."

Getting a shot

Colorado's Milan Hejduk will start in Sunday's game, replacing Jaromir Jagr. "It's unbelievable," Hejduk said. "I'm surprised. I was first told I was a replacement and I was really pumped. Now, I'm a starter and I'm excited, especially here in Colorado."

Hearing it from the crowd

All-Star games are celebrations in recognizing the top players in the league. Denver fans had a unique way of expressing their opinions to a few players.

During the introductions at Saturday night's SuperSkills competition, Dallas' Brett Hull heard some boos. Vancouver's Ed Jovanovski also heard some catcalls. Sergei Fedorov and Nicklas Lindstrom of the hated Detroit Red Wings, however, heard the loudest boos every time their names were called.

"Who cares if they are All-Stars, we still see them as our most hated rival," said one Avs fan in attendance. "Nothing will change that."

Both Lidstrom and Fedorov laughed off the boos from the crowd. "It was funny to hear that," Lidstrom said. "But I'm sure if the All-Star Game was in Detroit, our fans would be booing the Colorado players."

Related information
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SI's Kostya Kennedy: Midseason best and worst
Injured Jagr out of All-Star Game; Bruins' Samsonov in
Lemieux, Fleury and Hasek make triumphant returns
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