Shoulder injury, surgery sideline defenseman

Updated: July 29, 2004, 2:37 AM ET
Associated Press

DENVER -- Colorado Avalanche defenseman Rob Blake has pulled out of the World Cup of Hockey tournament scheduled for Aug. 30-Sept. 14 to recover from surgery on his right shoulder.

Blake, 34, was one of three Avalanche players selected to skate for Team Canada, along with forward Joe Sakic and defenseman Adam Foote.

"I was really looking forward to it because it should be a really good tournament," Blake said Tuesday.

Blake said the shoulder injury was discovered after the playoffs during what was expected to be a routine arthroscopic procedure to clean out debris.

"[The shoulder] bothered me for a good portion of the season, but the extent [of the injury] was a lot worse than we thought," Blake said. "I don't expect there will be any long-term effects. I had the same [operation] 12 years ago, and it was fine."

Rehabilitation from the surgery is expected to take about four months. Blake said he hopes to begin skating in late August or early September but won't be able to take any contact for an undetermined period.

Blake, who recently built a house near Lake Erie in his hometown of Simcoe, Ontario, met with team doctors Tuesday before leaving for his home in Manhattan Beach, Calif.

"I'll be doing my therapy in California," he said. "I have to strengthen [the shoulder]. The full range of motion is starting to come back, so I should be able to start training pretty good on it."

The Avalanche will have a new head coach in Joel Quenneville when they play again -- whenever that might be. The collective bargaining agreement between the league and NHL Players Association expires Sept. 15 and a lockout is expected if there is no new deal.

"From what I hear, it doesn't sound good," Blake said. "[The league] is still stuck on the salary cap. What do we have, about 50 days [before the expiration date]? I'm still optimistic, but something has to happen on both sides."

There could be an exodus of NHL players to Europe -- including Colorado star Peter Forsberg -- if there is a lockout.

"If it lasts the first few months, I'm not going to do much," he said. "If it extends into December and January, I'm going to have to look somewhere to go play. The guys who are signing now [to play in Europe] pretty much are free agents. Some guys have signed contracts with outs; if the NHL starts up, they'll be here."

Copyright 2004 by The Associated Press