SBD/4/Franchises

MINOR LEAGUE HOCKEY UPDATE

     HOW'S IT PLAYING IN PEORIA?  The Blues' minor league
affiliation with the IHL Peoria Rivermen is in question,
according to a report in the ST. LOUIS POST-DISPATCH.  At the
"urging" of new coach & GM Mike Keenan, the Blues have explored
options with the AHL.  Last week, the team sent a letter to
Labatt Breweries, which is seeking to purchase a new AHL
franchise for Moncton, New Brunswick.  Rivermen Owner Bruce
Saurs:  "Nothing would surprise me.  But I have to admit this is
a shock."  But Blues President Jack Quinn maintains that no move
is planned.  Still, several NHL teams have growing concerns that
the IHL "has become a veteran-dominated operation unfit for
player development" (Jeff Gordon, ST. LOUIS POST-DISPATCH, 1/4).
     IS LOCKOUT CHILLING CHL ATTENDANCE IN TEXAS?  Despite hopes
to capitalize on the NHL work stoppage, two CHL teams in TX have
seen their attendance decrease.  The Dallas Freeze and the Fort
Worth Fire "are playing to the smallest home crowds in their
three-year history."  The Freeze is averaging only 2,638 fans per
game, last in the seven-team CHL, and the Fire is drawing 3,491,
down from 4,017 of last year.  Sean Heilbron, Dir of Media
Relations for the Freeze: "We thought the NHL lockout would help
us. ... It may have hurt us.  The Stars created such a hockey
fever in Dallas, and that fever has kind of waned."  CHL
spokesperson Jason Rothwell believed league attendance would
improve in TX, but added:  "It lost some recognition when the NHL
went out" (Terry Egan, DALLAS MORNING NEWS, 1/1).
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