After all these years, Gartner still showing his heels to fastest Bondra can't keep up in speed-skating contest; All-Star notebook


BOSTON -- Mike Gartner couldn't hide. When the fastest-skater competition began last night in the buildup to the NHL All-Star Game, everyone knew the Toronto Maple Leaf was the man to beat. Gartner was the defending champion and the event's record holder.

The Washington Capitals' Peter Bondra appeared to have the advantage going into the final turn, but down the stretch, Gartner turned on the jets. Gartner, 36 and the oldest player in the competition, finished the course in 13.386 seconds to break his own record.

"There's no secret to it," he said after relegating the Detroit Red Wings' Sergei Federov (13.510) to second and Bondra (13.565) to third. "It's just a lot of hard work . . . and the legs just keep going."

For Bondra, it was a fun night, but not a very successful one.

The hardest-shot competition was won by the Winnipeg Jets' Dave Manson with a blast of 98 mph -- .7 mph faster than the Philadelphia Flyers' John LeClair's second-place effort.

Bondra competed, but his stick broke on the first of his two shots for a 42.2 mph score. His second blast was 92.4, but the HTC damage was done.

In the super-skills competition, the West beat the East, 13-12.

In the shooting accuracy contest, the New York Rangers' Mark Messier was 4-for-4, nailing each of the bull's-eye targets in the four corners of the net. Winnipeg's Teemu Selanne was second, needing six shots to hit each target.

Lemieux reassured

Despite saying he is feeling much better and that he has recovered nearly 100 percent of his strength after having the flu two weeks ago, Mario Lemieux told Boston Herald columnist Karen Guregian in an exclusive Sports Illustrated article that he recently discovered a lump in his neck.

Though the lump was determined to be benign, Lemieux said he immediately feared it might be a recurrence of Hodgkin's disease.

Two weeks after Christmas, the Pittsburgh Penguins center discovered the lump on the opposite side of his neck from the original lump that began his fight against cancer three years ago.

"It's been here a little while," Lemieux told Guregian. "It hasn't grown, though. It's fine. Really. The doctor said to just keep an eye on it. It's real small, nothing to be alarmed about."

Murphy called in

Toronto Maple Leafs defenseman Larry Murphy, the former Washington Capital, was named as a late replacement for the Chicago Blackhawks' Gary Suter, who suffered a injury to his right knee Wednesday night in the Capitals' 4-3 victory at the United Center.

As of late yesterday, however, no one could actually say Murphy was here. He already had gone to Las Vegas and reportedly was having trouble getting here because of the bad weather in the area.

NHL approves sales

The NHL Board of Governors approved the sale and relocation of the Winnipeg Jets to Phoenix next season.

The board also approved the sale of the Stars, who plan to stay in Dallas and begin efforts to build a new arena.

The governors also got an update on the Florida Panthers' quest for a new arena and the league's quest for franchise stability.

Tie among heroes

The Boston Bruins Heroes rallied for a 5-5 tie with the NHL Heroes of Hockey, as Gary Doak and Don Marcotte scored within 50 seconds of each other in the second 15-minute period of the exhibition game.

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