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MEET HIM IN ST. LOUIS -- 99 REASONS FOR BLUES TO SMILE
Published February 29, 1996
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).