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Devils say they'll break Meadowlands lease next week

The Stanley Cup champion Devils sent the strongest message yet that they intend to move to Nashville, Tenn., telling their landlord Tuesday that they will end their lease July 6.

One day before the Devils were to celebrate their NHL title with a rally outside their arena, the team said the state's sports authority had defaulted on their agreement.

The New Jersey Sports and Exposition Authority called the letter a "total shock" and said the Devils had "no basis" for their claims. The sports authority Tuesday sought a temporary restraining order and preliminary injunction in Superior Court in Bergen County.

The authority is to hold an emergency meeting of its board of commissioners today, hours before the victory celebration in the Meadowlands parking lot.

The authority said the letter from the Devils contradicted a letter Monday, when the Devils said they intended to end their Meadowlands lease after the 1996-97 season.

The latest legal maneuver could clear the way for owner John McMullen to move the team to Nashville, which has offered a lucrative financial package. Or it could be a bargaining tactic to extract better terms from the state authority.

Gov. Christine Whitman, a close ally of McMullen, said she was "deeply disappointed" by Tuesday's developments. Devils officials were not immediately available for comment.

Kings seek Robinson

INGLEWOOD, Calif. _ The Kings, seeking to fill a coaching vacancy, have been granted permission by the Devils to speak with assistant coach Larry Robinson.

"We have yet to contact Larry Robinson, but the Devils gave us permission and we will interview further (candidates) at the draft," King general manager Sam McMaster said.

Robinson, who finished his playing career with the Kings in 1992, won two Norris trophies as the league's best defenseman and played on six Stanley Cup championship teams in Montreal. In his second season as an assistant in New Jersey, he made $250,000 and could ask for as much as $750,000 per season to become a head coach.

McMaster is scheduled to interview two candidates today in Los Angeles _ former Calgary Flames coach Dave King and former Kings player Butch Goring, who coached Denver to the International Hockey League championship last season.

Finals nets high ratings

NEW YORK _ Fox Sports' telecast of the final game of the Stanley Cup between New Jersey and Detroit drew a 3.6 A.C. Nielsen rating, the highest-rated NHL broadcast ever on the Fox.

It also tied the 1990 NHL All-Star Game on NBC for the highest-rated NHL telecast since 1980.

Each rating point is equivalent to 1 percent of all TV households in America, or about 954,000.

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