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NHL TEAMS AIM TO FIRE UP INTEREST DESPITE WINTER BREAK
Published October 10, 1997
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).