Pittsburgh's fans are excited about the Stanley Cup finals, which begin tomorrow night in Detroit, but city officials have found reason to wring their hands.

A team plan to unfurl giant banners of star players such as captain Sidney Crosby and goalie Marc-Andre Fleury downtown - along with the logos and slogans of the shoe company Reebok - fizzled shortly after inconclusive talks between City Council members and officials from the mayor's administration.

The city's 28-year-old mayor, Luke Ravenstahl, said he rejected the idea to avoid sanctioning the banners unilaterally and to steer clear of a "back-and-forth disagreement" with City Council, according to the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.

The mayor's administration had drafted legislation to create a special section in the zoning code to allow the 40-by-85 foot banners on downtown buildings in the coming weeks.

But Council wasn't satisfied and sought other ways of carrying out the plan legally, though no decisions were made.

Other plans include opening Mellon Arena to allow fans to watch road games on the big screen. Tickets will cost $5 with the money going to the Mario Lemieux Foundation, which benefits cancer and neonatal medical research.

Ravenstahl said a possible victory parade is still in the works.

Meanwhile, he was grappling with his own ethical questions. The mayor sought legal guidance from the city's Law Department about whether he can accept free tickets to Stanley Cup games before deciding yesterday to pay $350 for tickets to each of the first two games in Pittsburgh, spokeswoman Joanna Doven said.

His caution may be well-founded. Last year, a city ethics panel grilled him after the Penguins and a hospital network paid his $9,000 entry fee at a charity golf tournament in June.

Ravenstahl said he did nothing improper and would continue to appear at charity events in an effort to promote the city.


* Detroit's Johan Franzen is expected to miss Game 1, but coach Mike Babcock says the center will return at some point in the series.

The center leads the NHL with 12 goals in the playoffs despite being scratched for the last five games of the second-round series against Dallas because of concussion-like symptoms. *