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Bettman gets the Lowe-down on NHL Hour

by Mike G. Morreale / NHL.com
NEW YORK -- The Lighthouse Project, Alex Ovechkin and six-time Stanley Cup champion Kevin Lowe were just a few of the many topics discussed on Thursday during NHL Hour With Commissioner Gary Bettman on SIRIUS XM Radio.

Lowe, who currently serves as the President of Hockey Operations for the Edmonton Oilers, was a guest of Bettman's and co-host Bill Clement. The first-ever draft choice of the Oilers (in 1979) won six Stanley Cups with two different teams during his 19-season NHL career that began 30 years ago Saturday. Lowe actually scored the first goal in franchise history when the Oilers played their first NHL game on Oct. 10, 1979, at Chicago.

"It's not a tough goal to remember," Lowe told Bettman. "It was at Chicago Stadium and it was nerve-racking because the organ was a pretty amazing piece they had in that building -- it scared you. We got a power-play and Wayne (Gretzky) sent me a pass and I put it over Tony Esposito's glove. That was also Wayne's first point, so it was pretty special."

Lowe admitted those Oiler teams, which included Gretzky, Paul Coffey, Grant Fuhr, Jari Kurri, Mark Messier, never considered themselves a dominant group at the time of their winning five Stanley Cup titles in seven seasons. They just had a lot of fun.

"I don't think we knew it at the time because we had a lot to learn in the early days and the New York Islanders taught us a lot about winning in the early '80s. But, really, we were having lots of fun and doing our jobs. We just had a lot of pride and never thought we were great, nor did we ever think we had two of the greatest players (Gretzky and Messier), but looking back now, it was pretty special."

Bettman also asked Lowe to comment on the "Battle of Alberta" and how the matchup between Edmonton and Calgary is one of the best rivalries in hockey.

"Unfortunately, those fans being in the Eastern time zone don't get to really feel the battle so I don't think people in North America have a true appreciation for the rivalry," Lowe said. "But this rivalry goes beyond hockey, it involves politics, families and business. It's an amazing rivalry and the excitement that leads up to the game and even during the game is tremendous. It's been around for generations and we're fortunate to have this type of rivalry in hockey."

Bettman was also asked about the current state of the Lighthouse Project on Long Island. The Lighthouse Project, first introduced by New York Islanders owner Charles Wang, is the proposed transformation of Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum and its surrounding area. If approved the project would take 8-to-10 years to be completed. The Nassau Coliseum is currently the third-oldest arena in active use by an NHL team and has the smallest capacity of all arenas in the NHL.

"I don't think there's anyone who disputes the fact the Isles belong on Long Island and Charles Wong doesn't want to sell the club or move the club," Bettman said. "Charles Wong couldn't imagine eight years ago that he'd be trying to figure out where this team would be playing in the future. It's time for town of Hempstead (N.Y.) to give Charles an answer, which he hopes would be 'yes,' to move forward with this project. A new arena can make such a great difference."

Clement and Bettman also touched upon the wizardry of Washington Capitals forward Alex Ovechkin and his 5 goals in three games to open the season.

"At this rate, he's liable to score 240 points by the end of the season," laughed Bettman. "I think he might be able to crack 70 this year."

"And his hot start has also helped linemate Nicklas Backstrom too," Clement said. "Really, though, I thought the Flyers did a good job on Ovechkin (on Tuesday) but he still managed 2 goals and 1 assist."

Bettman also confirmed that the lottery to win an opportunity to purchase tickets to the 2010 Bridgestone Winter Classic at Fenway Park in Boston in January included a record 307,000 registrants. Last year, there were 250,000 registrants entered for an opportunity to purchase tickets.

Contact Mike Morreale at mmorreale@nhl.com


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