SBD/19/Leagues Governing Bodies

THE NHL IS COMING! THE NHL IS COMING! HOCKEY FEST HITS HUB

     The 46th NHL All-Star Game will be played tomorrow evening
in Boston's FleetCenter, and media coverage in Boston is heavy
with All-Star news and NHL profiles.  The BOSTON GLOBE's David
Halbfinger writes on the strategy of NHL Commissioner Gary
Bettman in "marketing a sport whose appeal has long been too
narrow, the audience too small."  Bettman's plan "is a simple
one.  Get the sport in front of as many eyeballs as possible."
Rick Dudley, Senior VP at NHL Enterprises, said the league
recently went after sponsors who would give "a real commitment"
to the sport. Halbfinger notes the two-year deal with Campbell
Soup's Chunky brand, who, in turn, have spent heavily on point-
of-purchase and in-store presence.  The league has also "dropped
some existing sponsors," like Thrifty Car Rental, when they
"balked at the NHL's new demands for exposure" (BOSTON GLOBE,
1/19).  Bettman is also featured by Kevin Paul Dupont, under
"Bettman Continues to Twirl His Magic."  Bettman:  "My focus has
been: 'Give us a chance.'  We have a fast-paced, hard hitting,
exciting game."  Bettman dismisses talk the NHL has to "catch"
the NBA, NFL, or MLB.  He adds, "We have to be everything we can
be .... Are we there yet?  No, but I think we're getting there"
(BOSTON GLOBE, 1/19).    CRACKS IN THE ICE?  In a feature in
today's WALL STREET JOURNAL, John Helyar writes the All-Star
weekend "reaffirms that pro hockey has finally skated out of the
Dark Ages, under the guidance" of Bettman.  But despite the
optimism, Helyar notes some problems, including a slight drop-off
in attendance.  Helyar:  "Too many lockout aftershocks, too many
shaky franchises, too many pricey tickets.  Despite the NHL's
slick image, the league has a number of rough spots."  Heylar
examines each, writing, "All the hype in the world from NHL
headquarters can't overcome local ownership weaknesses."  One
explanation comes from NHLPA Exec Dir Bob Goodenow:  "Hockey has
expanded into a bigger, more complicated business, and some teams
have been owned by people who maybe saw it as a hobby or a
business not deserving of their greatest attention.  The new
environment is hard for these owners to operate in" (WALL STREET
JOURNAL, 1/19).  In Philadelphia, Les Bowen writes the 46th All-
Star game comes a year later than planned due to the '94 lockout,
and "it's safe to say that very few people eagerly awaited its
return" (PHILADELPHIA DAILY NEWS, 1/19).  In Ottawa, Roy
MacGregor writes that "one day sports historians may say it was
here [in Boston] ... where hockey took leave of this world."  He
writes of Fox's new computerized puck, the video enhanced
NHLFANtasy at the World Trade Center, and, "much to the shock of
those who came of age during the 1960's, you will find Peter Max"
-- the official artist of the All-Star Game (OTTAWA CITIZEN,
1/19).
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