SBD/29/Franchises

MEET HIM IN ST. LOUIS -- 99 REASONS FOR BLUES TO SMILE

     Wayne Gretzky met the media yesterday on his trade to St.
Louis.  Gretzky, on potential marketing opportunities with the
Blues:  "A whole new barrage of merchandise goes along with that.
It's a capitalistic country.  It's good for the Blues and for
Wayne Gretzky.  Everyone's going to win in this case."   Blues GM
& Coach Mike Keenan denied rumors Gretzky's deal had any
involvement from local businesses.  Keenan: "To my knowledge I
don't think there are any businesses in town that are related to
Wayne's contract.  Maybe on the merchandising end" (THE DAILY).
     EMPEROR'S NEW CLOTHES:  ESPN showed video footage of a long
line of fans lining up at the Kiel Center box office buying
tickets for future Blues games ("SportsCenter," 2/28).
Meanwhile, jersey orders for No. 99 Blues sweaters soared in St.
Louis.  The team sold out the next two home games, and has only
scattered seats for five other games.  Team officials expect to
sell out all regular-season tickets soon.   A retailer located
near the Kiel Center reported 20 orders for custom-made Gretzky
jerseys (Dan Mihalopoulos, ST. LOUIS POST-DISPATCH, 2/29).  The
Post-Dispatch is expected will run a Blues ad announcing that the
team is taking orders for No. 99 jerseys (USA TODAY, 2/29).
     TOUGH SELL IN TINSELTOWN:  "SportsCenter" noted Kings
attendance during the Gretzky-era was up 45% from '88-96 -- the
team averaged 10,664 from '67-88 without Gretzky, and 15,418
after his arrival (ESPN, 2/28).  Last night's first non-Gretzky
game at the Forum may be a sign of things to come.  The club drew
just 11,405 -- the third smallest gate of the season (USA TODAY,
2/29).  Covering last night's Lightning-Kings game, Roy Cummings
notes in a sports apparel store two blocks from the Forum, the
only two hockey jerseys on display were of the Ducks' Teemu
Salanne and Paul Kariya.  Cummings notes, "Other than Gretzky,
the Kings don't really have anybody whose name and number can
help a retailer sell a jersey" (TAMPA TRIBUNE, 2/29).  Kings
officials say their plan centers on building a young team for a
new arena, which they hope to open in '99 (Helene Elliott, L.A.
TIMES, 2/29).  Magic Johnson, on Gretzky's impact on L.A.:  "He
turned this into a hockey town. ...  He brought celebrities out
to the hockey game.  Kids in Los Angeles never played hockey
before.  The ice rinks were empty.  Wayne comes and now ...  you
can't get ice time" ("SportsCenter," ESPN, 2/28).
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