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Lemieux Becomes Penguin Owner

From Staff and Wire Reports

The Penguins will stay in Pittsburgh under the ownership of former star Mario Lemieux in a plan approved Thursday by a U.S. bankruptcy judge.

The NHL had threatened to sell or fold the franchise if Judge Bernard Markovitz had not supported the plan. The decision makes Lemieux the first pro sports player to acquire a controlling stake in a franchise he once played for.

“I feel like a rookie again,” said Lemieux, a Hall of Fame player who revived what once was hockey’s worst team as a player from 1984-97. “It’s been a long road and it’s finally great to get the team.”

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Lemieux’s plan calls for converting $20 million of the $32.5 million the team owes him as a player into an ownership stake in the team. He will get a $5-million payment and forgive the additional $7.5 million. Lemieux also said he would have $50 million in new money to operate the team and satisfy some debts.

Lemieux would be the managing director, overseeing the franchise and sitting on the NHL Board of Governors but leaving day-to-day operations to management. He is expected to retain General Manager Craig Patrick and Coach Kevin Constantine.

The judge said he has not reached a decision on whether Philadelphia-based SMG Inc. would continue as the team’s landlord at the Civic Arena.

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The Atlanta Thrashers begin stockpiling players for their inaugural season today, raiding 26 existing NHL teams at the expansion draft at Boston.

The Thrashers will take one player from each team’s unprotected lists (the year-old Nashville Predators are off limits). But the pickings appear to be pretty slim for the league’s 28th team.

Saturday, the Thrashers and the rest of the teams will select from the world’s best 18-year-olds in the entry draft, also held at Boston’s FleetCenter.

The Thrashers have the second pick behind the Tampa Bay Lightning.

The rebuilding Kings don’t have a first-round pick, having sent the eighth pick to the New York Islanders in the deal that brought Ziggy Palffy to Los Angeles. The Mighty Ducks pick 15th overall.

Basketball

Clem Haskins, at the center of allegations of academic fraud at Minnesota, has agreed to quit after 13 seasons as basketball coach, according to newspaper and radio reports in Minneapolis and St. Paul.

Defending champion Yugoslavia defeated France, 63-52, in Paris to qualify for the second round of the Euro 99 championships as the only undefeated team through the opening three games.

Plans were unveiled for a new professional men’s league, known as ABA 2000, that will play a 40-game schedule in 12 cities next year. The owners were not identified for the 12 franchises that are expected to be based in Anaheim, Chicago, Jacksonville, Fla., Tampa, Fla., Pittsburgh; Raleigh-Durham, N.C.; New Orleans, New York, the Tidewater area of Virginia; Hartford, Conn., Nashville and Memphis.

Jurisprudence

A judge declared a mistrial in the malpractice case in Suffolk (Mass.) County against a cardiologist after a jury could not decide if his diagnosis contributed to the death of Boston Celtic star Reggie Lewis. Two consulting physicians were cleared of wrongdoing. The decision came after the jury, for the second day in a row, said it was deadlocked over Dr. Gilbert Mudge’s responsibility. Mudge had treated Lewis before he died of a heart condition while shooting baskets in 1993.

Miscellany

The Dallas Cowboys acquired receiver James McKnight from Seattle for a third-round pick in 2000. . . . Virginia Tech, after more than 30 years without a single conference affiliation for all its athletic teams, has been offered full membership in the Big East Conference. Virginia Tech is currently a member of the Big East for football only and competes in 19 other sports in the Atlantic 10.

Vanessa Atler, the Canyon Country gymnast who finished first in the Pan American Games trials at Cal Poly Pomona in February, will not compete in the Pan-Am Games next month in Winnipeg. Atler will concentrate on preparing for the U.S. national championships in Sacramento in August.


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