NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman attempted to calm fears that the Canadiens would leave Montreal after an American businessman agreed to buy the storied franchise.
Bettman, speaking Saturday during his annual state-of-the-league address during All-Star weekend, confirmed that the Habs' sale to George Gillett includes clauses that would keep him from moving the team. Gillett will own the Molson Centre and 80.1 percent of the franchise, pending league approval. Molson is expected to keep 19.9 percent of the Canadiens.
"The deal is structured in such a way that this team can't move, and Molson would never want to see them move without respect to who owns them," Bettman said. "Secondly, just because an American has bought the team doesn't mean people should be thinking it's moving.
"The reason you buy the Montreal Canadiens is because you want the Montreal Canadiens. You buy the Montreal Canadiens, you are buying an institution."
The NHL is considering an eventual change in the All-Star format, which could include several teams that would make a small tournament. The league does not plan to return to the East-West format in the near future.
The All-Star game has matched players from North America against players from the rest of the world for the last three years. The latest idea calls for six national teams to play four-on-four, which would create a similar effect and a possible preview for the Olympics. The idea was in its infancy stages, at best.
"It's safe to assume that we are not going to do East-West next year," Bettman said. "We may keep this format or if we can come up with something that is a little more exotic that is workable, we may consider doing that."
As expected, Sabres goalie Dominik Hasek was grilled about whether he would retire after this season and whether he planned to play in the Olympics in 2002. He reiterated he would discuss his plans after the season.
Hasek will play the first period today for the World Team. He is making his sixth appearance in the All-Star game. He is the lone representative from the Sabres.
"It's always an honor," Hasek said. "It's a great weekend. It's a great two days to be here. My son (Michael) is here with me and my family. I like to come here and be part of this weekend."
With the swiftest skater, most accurate shooter and top goalie, the North American All-Stars got early bragging rights over their World counterparts.
Colorado Avalanche defenseman Ray Bourque, who will play in his 19th All-Star game Sunday, won his eighth accuracy title to help North America beat the World team, 15-13, in the NHL SuperSkills competition Saturday night.
It was the first time North America won the event since the NHL adopted the format in 1998.
Boston Bruins forward Bill Guerin became the fourth different player in four years to win the skating crown, narrowly defeating first-time All-Star Simon Gagne in a one-lap sprint around the rink.
Phoenix Coyotes goalie Sean Burke, who has established himself among the league's best in the absence of Nikolai Khabibulin, capped the evening when he won the goaltending competition in a tiebreaker with San Jose Sharks rookie Evgeni Nabokov.