Lemieux says he's not ready to play due to lockout

Updated: April 29, 2005, 8:00 PM ET
Associated Press

PITTSBURGH -- Mario Lemieux will likely skip the upcoming hockey world championships in Austria, but the player-owner of the Pittsburgh Penguins hasn't ruled it out completely.

Mario Lemieux

Lemieux told The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette that it would be difficult for him to get ready for the tournament that runs from April 30-May 15 since he hasn't played this season due to the NHL lockout.

"I'm not sure it would be in my best interest -- or in Team Canada's best interest -- to have players there who haven't played the whole year," Lemieux told the newspaper. "That's the way I feel now. Maybe I'll change my mind, but it would be very difficult to play at that level, not having played the whole year."

Over 300 players joined leagues in Europe to wait out the lockout that forced the NHL to cancel its entire season.

Tom McMillan, the Penguins' vice president of communications, told The Associated Press that Lemieux was not available for an interview Monday.

"His statements [to the newspaper] stand for him," McMillan said.

Last week, the NHL said it would allow league personnel to take part in the world championships and many NHL players are expected to take part.

Usually, a handful of players join their national teams once their NHL teams are eliminated from the Stanley Cup playoffs. But now that many have missed the whole season, they probably will be looking for competitive games to play in.

Lemieux and Wayne Gretzky got involved in the last round of labor talks between the NHL and the players' association on Feb. 19, but those discussions -- held three days after the season was canceled -- still didn't lead to an agreement.

Copyright 2005 by The Associated Press