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Gretzky fears a multiyear NHL shutdown

Wayne Gretzky fears the NHL could be shut down for as long as two years if a labor deal is not reached soon.

The NHL's all-time leading scorer and part owner of the Phoenix Coyotes said an "even more alarming" scenario could await the league if the lockout is not settled in the next few days.

"I'm scared we could be looking at a year, year and a half, two years, not just three months like a lot of people thought back in September," Gretzky said at a news conference at the World Junior Championships.

The NHL Board of Governors is to meet Jan. 14 in New York. The league rejected a union proposal, and its counteroffer was turned down during a session Dec. 14. No new talks are scheduled.

"From the standpoint of owners, players and fans, everyone is disappointed there is no hockey," Gretzky said.

Since the players are not paid between April and October, Gretzky said there may be little chance of a breakthrough during the summer on a new collective-bargaining agreement.

"We're going to be back where we were last Sept. 15th come this Sept. 15th," he said.

WORLD JUNIORS: Janne Kolehmainen scored in the first two minutes of overtime to give Finland a 4-3 win over Sweden for fifth place in the championships at Grand Forks, N.D. Teemu Nurmi's goal in the final minute of regulation wiped out a 3-2 lead for Sweden.

Finland finished 4-2 overall and Sweden 2-4.

In consolation games, Marek Hascak's goal midway through the third period gave Slovakia a 3-2 win over Switzerland, and Andre Reiss scored a power-play goal with less than two minutes left that lifted Germany over Belarus 4-3.

Slovakia finished the consolation round 3-0 and 4-2 overall.

Today, the United States takes on the Czech Republic for the bronze medal and a first in USA junior hockey: Team America has never won medals in back-to-back years. Last year it claimed the gold.

The Americans, who have won only four total medals in world juniors, including silver in 1997, and bronzes in 1992 and 1986, say not to expect a letdown just because they aren't in the gold-medal game.

"I think our team is going to be pretty excited to play," assistant captain Patrick O'Sullivan said. "It's our last game in front of our home fans and for most the players on our team it's the last game ever in the world juniors."

Russia faces Canada in the title game today.

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