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Nicholls, Keane suspended

Bernie Nicholls of the Edmonton Oilers and Mike Keane of the Montreal Canadiens were suspended by the NHL on Tuesday for separate incidents involving the use of sticks.

Nicholls was suspended for seven days and fined $500 for a "two-handed swing" he took with his stick at Darren Banks of Boston in a preseason game Sept. 28, striking him on the shoulder, league president Gil Stein said.

Keane was suspended for four days and fined $500 for swinging and jabbing his stick in the face of Bryan Marchment of Chicago in a Sept. 13 preseason game.

Both suspensions will begin Tuesday unless an appeal is waived within 24 hours, the league said.

Nicholls will lose $10,143 in pay as a result of the suspension, the league said, and the Oilers will be fined the same amount. Keane, meanwhile, will lose $5,072 in pay with the Canadiens forfeiting an equal amount to the league.

SportsChannel loses bid

to stop NHL, ESPN deal

NEW YORK _ In a decision handed down Tuesday by the Appellate Division of New York State Supreme Court, SportsChannel America lost its bid to enjoin the NHL from broadcasting its games over the ESPN cable television network.

SportsChannel America, which had broadcast NHL games for the past four years, asserted it had been deprived of its contractual right of first refusal for 1992-93 when the league entered into a five-year, $80-million deal with ESPN.

Justice Shirley Fingerhood denied SportsChannel's request for an injunction on Sept. 10, and the appellate court upheld that opinion, finding the agreement on which SportsChannel based its argument to be "too imprecise and ambiguous," and ruling the network failed to show irreparable harm.

Around the league

Canucks: Pavel Bure, the NHL's top rookie last season, scored four goals in Monday night's game, including three in the second period, as Vancouver routed Winnipeg 8-1. Bure's four goals tied a club record, as did his two short-handed goals.

Maple Leafs: Right wing Rob Pearson has been declared fit after having a seizure on a flight from Edmonton. Pearson, 21, was taken to a hospital by ambulance after the team's Air Canada flight landed Monday afternoon. He was treated for dehydration.

All-Star Game: Frank Mahovlich and Henri Richard were named honorary captains for this season's All-Star Game.

West Virginia fans greet

hockey with fisticuffs

WHEELING, W.Va. _ Four fans were ejected for fighting during a Wheeling Thunderbirds game Saturday.

Dennis Magruder, executive director of the Wheeling Civic Center, said other disturbances were also reported.

The Thunderbirds, who play in the East Coast Hockey League, are in their first season in Wheeling.

"In some settings, you may find fighting in the stands," said Magruder, "but we're not going to stand for that here."

Magruder said a conduct code that will prohibit fighting and ask spectators to watch their language will be distributed to fans. Spectators who fight will be ejected and may be barred from future games or prosecuted. Magruder said on-ice fighting "is not a genuine concern," however, because hockey is a "brutal sport."