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NHL TEAMS AIM TO FIRE UP INTEREST DESPITE WINTER BREAK

          The NHL's participation in the Olympics, which will
     shut the league down for 17 days in midseason, is "risky"
     because "marquee players could get hurt, and local fans
     could feel alienated," according to Stefan Fatsis of the
     WALL STREET JOURNAL.  But league officials say the Olympic
     exposure "will speed the goal of attracting new fans both in
     the U.S. and internationally."  NHL Commissioner Gary
     Bettman: "When people think of the Olympics, for two weeks
     they are going to have reasons to think of the NHL."  But
     Fatsis adds that the NHL's "biggest problem" during its
     regular season "will be closing down at about the time fan
     interest usually picks up."  For example, the Blues will
     play 25 home games through December but "only" 16 home games
     in the "peak" January to April months.  So the team has
     scheduled six promotional giveaways this month and has
     reduced ticket prices in two-thirds of the 19,260-seat Kiel
     Center.  Blues Marketing Exec Jim Woodcock: "We understand
     that any scheduling hardships are for the good of the game
     and the league.  But no question it does pose an early
     challenge for us."  Fatsis adds that "to ensure attendance
     doesn't slip after the Olympics, teams are planning
     promotions during the shutdown," including the Panthers
     hosting a black-tie dinner with players waiting tables, and
     the Blues offering 200 tickets for a Caribbean cruise with
     players (WALL STREET JOURNAL, 10/10). 

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