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STANLEY CUP PLAYOFFS / SPECIAL PULLOUT SECTION | NHL
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Penguins Are Under Pressure

April 21, 1999| From Associated Press

The NHL is expected to back Mario Lemieux's ownership bid for the bankrupt Pittsburgh Penguins and hinted it could revoke the team's franchise if he does not gain control.

The NHL plans to file legal documents Friday supporting the Lemieux group and offering to work with him to get the Penguins out of bankruptcy, league and legal sources told the Associated Press.

The NHL wants the matter settled by June at the latest.

William Daly, senior vice president of legal affairs for the NHL, said, "We can't be in a position of being halfway through the summer and not knowing what the Penguins are doing."

For that reason, the league is discouraging Florida investment banker Chip Gesner from submitting a bid, one that might further slow the process, the sources said.

"A lot of people could buy the Penguins, but one person can save them: Mario Lemieux," Penguin spokesman Tom McMillan said.

U.S. Bankruptcy Court Judge Bernard Markovitz has scheduled a hearing on Lemieux's takeover bid for April 30. Markovitz has no obligation to follow the NHL's advice and choose the Lemieux group, but the league does have some leverage.

If the NHL does not agree with the choice of owners, it could reject the judge's recommendation and revoke the franchise, essentially making it worthless.

Daly said the revocation of the franchise is an unwanted but valid way for the league to settle the problem.

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Wayne Gretzky, whose NHL career ended Sunday, might get in hockey's Hall of Fame without the customary three-year wait. The shrine previously waived the rule for Lemieux and Jean Beliveau. The selection committee will vote on the matter April 29. If three-quarters of the committee approves the resolution, the board of directors will vote on it June 14.

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St. Louis defenseman Marc Bergevin will miss eight weeks after undergoing abdominal surgery, effectively ending his season.

Bergevin, 33, was suffering from an abdominal strain and missed 27 games because of the injury.

The Blues begin their Western Conference quarterfinal series in Phoenix against the Coyotes on Thursday night.

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The Kings may not have made the playoffs, but their International Hockey League affiliate, the Ice Dogs, begin IHL Turner Cup playoff action tonight.

The Ice Dogs play at Kansas City tonight and at home Thursday at 7:30 p.m. A third game, if necessary, will be played in Long Beach on Sunday at 6 p.m.

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