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The NHL's participation in the Olympics is examined by Bob Verdi of the CHICAGO TRIBUNE. Verdi: "Hockey wants so badly to be like other sports that it is trying the worst way possible: by joining Olympic overkill. ... Pro hockey players don't belong in the Winter Olympics." Verdi adds that while some of Commissioner Gary Bettman's "strategies to elevate hockey's profile have worked ... [t]he Olympic interval is totally unnecessary and potentially damaging to the NHL." By closing down the league for 2 1/2 weeks "the NHL could lose its already tenuous grasp on the American public. Canada won't be a problem, but in the United States, the competition is fierce from basketball, pro and college." Another "downside risk" for the NHL is that the season will run too late. Verdi: "[T]he NHL still has too much to prove in North America. The Olympic diversion accomplishes nothing" (CHICAGO TRIBUNE, 9/30). OLYMPIC TESTING: On CNNSI.com, Michael Farber writes that the NHL and NHLPA "have identified players who could make their countries' Olympic teams in Nagano next February and have asked them to provide urine samples to get them used to Olympic drug testing procedures." Farber adds that "total confidentiality has been assured" (CNNSI.com, 9/25). JAPAN GAMES: In Toronto, Randy Starkman writes on the NHL doubleheader in Japan this weekend between the Canucks and Mighty Ducks. While the games are "guaranteed sellouts at the 10,000-seat Yoyogi Stadium," the holdout of the Ducks' Paul Kariya, who is of Japanese descent, "will be the story in hockey articles written" this week in the Japanese press. Starkman: "This could defeat the NHL's purpose in starting its season in Tokyo: to expand its markets and grow the game of hockey" (TORONTO STAR, 9/30).
MLB announced its second-highest total attendance in history as 63,196,222 fans attended games during the '97 season. This year's total is second only to the all-time record of 70,256,459 in '93. Overall, MLB teams averaged 28,288 in '97, the third-highest average in history and a 5.2% increase over '96's average of 26,889. Six teams, the Braves, Orioles, Indians, Mariners, Dodgers and Rockies, drew more than three million fans. Every MLB team drew over one million fans for only the sixth time. Attendance was boosted by the 214 interleague games, which averaged 33,407, up 20.4% over intraleague action (MLB). See (#30) for final AL attendance. For the NL, see tomorrow's DAILY. TWO VIEWS: USA TODAY's debate is on realigning baseball with the newspaper's editorial board in favor of realignment and the opposing view written by former editor of The Baseball Encyclopedia, Rick Wolff (USA TODAY, 9/30).