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Blue Jackets' Nash Signs, Then Scores

October 13, 2002|From Associated Press

Rick Nash took a long time to sign his first NHL contract but needed only two shots for his first goal.

Nash was chosen by Columbus with the first overall pick in the June draft and just beat a deadline this past Monday to sign his deal. Had the 18-year-old left wing not reached agreement with the Blue Jackets when he did, he would've been back with his junior team in London, Ontario, on Thursday night instead of playing against the Chicago Blackhawks.

But the deal was done, a three-year contract that could bring Nash more than $12 million, and his impact was felt immediately.

Nash scored his first NHL goal on his second shot, a tying tally 7:35 into the second period of the Blue Jackets' 2-1 victory over the Blackhawks. It came on the heels of an impressive preseason that landed the teenager on Columbus' opening-night roster.

He tied for the team lead with three goals in five exhibition games and finished second with six points, and now he hopes he is in the NHL for good.

"Pretty much it's a win-win situation for me," Nash said Thursday. "Whether I go back to London, it's a good situation there.

"My goal, my expectation is to stay with the team all year. That's what I'm focused on right now."

He certainly wasn't too focused on the details on his contract.

"Well, I'm not too sure what exactly they are," he admitted. "I haven't really seen it or looked into it too far. But I'm sure they're pretty good."

OLYMPICS IN 2006?: With the NHL abandoning its North America versus the World format in the All-Star game in favor of the Eastern Conference against Western Conference, the question was raised whether the league would take another Olympic break in 2006.

"Anytime we take a break to go to the Olympics, there are a whole host of issues that are positives and a whole host of issues that are negative," Commissioner Gary Bettman said. "There isn't universal agreement. It's a logistical nightmare for us."

But, will NHL players be in Turin, Italy, in 2006?

Ask again in two years after a new labor agreement is reached between the NHL and its players.

"We're more focused on 2004 right now than 2006," Bettman said Thursday from Los Angeles, where he attended the jersey retirement by the Kings of Wayne Gretzky's No. 99. "Even though the union, at least at the present time, has decided they have no interest in beginning discussions sooner rather than later, I think we need to be dealing with the new collective bargaining agreement before we worry about going to the Olympics."

This year's experience in Salt Lake City was clearly better than the NHL's first Olympic venture to the 1998 Nagano Games.

"I have no regrets about going," Bettman said. "But being in North America relative to coverage, time zones and travel, as difficult as that is, it's not nearly as difficult as being outside of North America. But at the appropriate time, we'll weigh it all."

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FAST STARTS: Alexander Mogilny is always ready when the games start to count.

The Toronto right wing scored twice and added an assist Thursday night in the Maple Leafs' 6-0 win at Pittsburgh. That vaulted the 33-year-old forward into a three-way tie for the active lead for goals on opening night.

Mogilny has 13 career goals in season openers, joining Detroit Red Wings teammates Luc Robitaille and Brett Hull for the lead. That tandem went scoreless Thursday night in a 6-3 win at San Jose.

Maurice Richard and Cam Neely also scored 13 goals in openers, to trail Dino Ciccarelli and Michel Goulet-- ho top the career list with 14.

San Jose's Adam Oates, the active leader in career opening night points with 25, was held off the board by the Red Wings. Most of Oates' damage has been in setting up teammates. Of his first night points, only one was a goal to go with 24 assists.

That's nothing new for the center, who has led the NHL is assists in three seasons--including in 2001-02 when he had 64 with Washington and Philadelphia.

Mark Messier, the New York Rangers' 41-year-old captain, had the first multigoal game of his career when he scored twice Wednesday in a 4-1 win at Carolina.

"I guess there's a first for everything if you play long enough," Messier said.

Messier, with 660 goals, moved into seventh place on the career list as he opened his 24th NHL season.

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FANFEST: Welcome to "The Year of the Fan."

The NHL will "celebrate the unique attributes of the NHL fan: passion, dedication and loyalty." and will select the fan of the year at season's end.

All 30 teams will choose their own fan of the year and enter that person into a league-wide pool of finalists. A panel of judges, including commissioner Gary Bettman, entertainer Denis Leary, and analyst John Davidson, will pick the winner.

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