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The ABL's San Jose Lasers opened their season on Wednesday night and MERCURY NEWS columnist Ann Killion wrote that if the "first night is any indication, Year 2 will be bigger and better." Killion: "Bigger building. Bigger crowd. Bigger media turnout. Bigger celebrities and more of them in the audience." The announced attendance of 10,809 "more than doubled" last season's opening crowd. Killion noted the "star-studded crowd" that included 49ers Jerry Rice, Terrell Owens, Merton Hanks, and Terry Kirby, along with Ronnie Lott, Marty McSorley and Dusty Baker. Killion: "[T]he ABL is still here. Not just existing, but getting bigger" (SAN JOSE MERCURY NEWS, 10/16). In S.F., Gwen Knapp, under the header, "ABL Sells Basketball For The Real Fan," wrote that the Lasers of "yesteryear sold themselves to the women's basketball loyalists, long smitten with the college game. Wednesday's show appealed to the old crowd and reached out for general sports fans." But Knap added that the 49ers' at the game were "invited as VIPs ... a WNBA trick, slightly altered" (S.F. EXAMINER, 10/16). BLIZZARD: A HARTFORD COURANT editorial states that Blizzard fans "are not a beer-drinking crowd. Ponytailed girls dressed in tie-dyed Blizzard shirts bounced up the coliseum aisles. ... Mothers with the neighborhood girls in tow held up homemade signs, and families ... watched affordable and exciting basketball" (HART. COURANT, 10/17).
At least three pro women's hockey leagues "are looking to hit the ice in the next couple of years," according to Ken Campbell of the HOCKEY NEWS. Campbell reports that "some people think there is big money to be made from it." Among the fledgling leagues are the Women's Pro Hockey League, which claims to have "substantial financial backing and received signed letters of intent from 16 of 20 top American players." In addition, the U.S. Women's Pro Hockey League wants to begin with a ten-team exhibition schedule before expanding to 26 teams in four divisions, including teams in Honolulu, Edmonton, Biloxi and Beijing (HOCKEY NEWS, 10/17). In Hartford, Tommy Hine reported that the Women's Pro Hockey League "will debut next spring," with six teams, three each in Canada and the U.S. One franchise will be owned by former Penguins Owner Jack McGregor. WPHL President Ed Saunders: "At this point, we have identified several franchises. Right now, Connecticut is our strongest candidate." WPHL players would "average $500 a week, with top players earning $1,000 (HARTFORD COURANT, 10/8).
NFL: In L.A., Bill Plaschke writes of spending time with 28 L.A. youngsters talking about the NFL and the open L.A. market. Plaschke writes that while "many of them love the sport," he was hearing the "sound of future ticket and merchandising dollars slipping away with every year" the NFL is not in L.A. Plaschke: "This is a generation that is being lost. ... The NFL needs Los Angeles more than Los Angeles needs the NFL" (L.A. TIMES, 10/17)....After NFL Commissioner Paul Tagliabue mentioned Houston as a possible expansion city, prospective Houston team Owner Robert McNair said, "The question now is do we have the resolve to go forward?" (HOUSTON CHRONICLE, 10/17). MLB: Throwing out the first pitch for Game One of the World Series will be 21-year-old Jackie Robinson/GE Fund Scholar Shomari Dakatari Dailey (MLB). LPGA: The LPGA Tournament of Champions "pulled out" of South FL and will become a season-ending event. Robert Trent Jones Golf Trail in Alabama will sponsor and host the event from October 8-11. Chrysler Plymouth didn't renew as title sponsor after one year as host of the FL event (Fort Lauderdale SUN-SENTINEL, 10/16). LISTENING TO ASIA? Former Cowboy Preston Pearson of TX- based Pro-Style Associates, together with two other partners, "are searching for investors in a new Asia-Pacific Football League," according to Welch Suggs of the DALLAS BUSINESS JOURNAL. The league is looking for $5.5M to begin play in six Pacific Rim cities. The APFL, headquartered in Dallas, is scheduled to begin play in October '98, and plans to hold a training camp "somewhere in Texas" next summer (DALLAS BUSINESS JOURNAL, 10/13 issue).
Former Patriots Owner Victor Kiam testified yesterday in the St. Louis Convention and Visitor Commission's (CVC) $130M lawsuit against the NFL, according to Lhotka & O'Neil of the ST. LOUIS POST-DISPATCH. Kiam said that between '90 and '92 he tried three times to move the team but was "blocked each time by the NFL." Kiam claimed that his team "met NFL's usual criteria to move: It was losing money and fan attendance was declining." But NFL lawyers "pointed during cross-examination to the Patriots' losing record and the team's sexual harassment scandal involving a female sports writers as reasons for lost fan support." Kiam said league execs prevented him from relocating to Jacksonville, San Antonio or Baltimore during his tenure and he said that he lost $30M while owning the team. Kiam: "[NFL] Commissioner [Paul] Tagliabue said, 'You don't meet the guidelines,' all of which are subjective. I never had a chance." Under cross examination, Kiam "defended himself in a sexual harassment scandal" involving former Boston Herald reporter Lisa Olson that began in '90. Lawyers also noted that Kiam inherited a team that went to the Super Bowl in the '85 season, went 1-15 during his tenure "and back to the Super Bowl last January" and currently has a waiting list for season-tickets (ST. LOUIS POST-DISPATCH, 10/17). On Wednesday, several NFL owners, on videotaped, gave "varying" testimony on "why they voted as they did" in March and April of '95 when the Rams' move to St. Louis was first rejected and then approved (ST. LOUIS POST-DISPATCH, 10/16).