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NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman was in Toronto yesterday at the Canadian Sports Media achievement awards luncheon. During his visit, Bettman discussed the state of the league with local writers. On the sparse attendance for the second Hurricanes home game: "There's no surprise here. You're dealing with a situation where the team is playing over 70 miles from its permanent home. We knew ... this would be a problem, particularly on weeknights." Bettman likened the situation to the NFL's Oilers who are experiencing attendance problems while playing in Memphis temporarily before moving to Nashville. Regarding the number of player holdouts and the increasing team payrolls, Bettman said, "You have to look at these things over time. ... We've had holdouts in prior years. It's easy to say, 'Oh my, look at this.' But if you go back over time holdouts have happened. ... The thing you have to look at over time is: Are our revenues and our salaries, our players costs, increasing about the same rate? My preference is that our revenues increase faster than the salaries, which is what's been happening for the past few years." Bettman said that he had "no news" concerning the sale of the Oilers (David Shoalts, Toronto GLOBE & MAIL, 10/9). He also added that the sale of the Islanders is a "work in progress" (CP, 10/9). FAMILIAR REFRAIN: Fox Sports Net's John Walsh reported on the increase in NHL salaries, noting that they have risen "a shocking" 265% in the last six years. Walsh: "Who's to blame for these salaries? One argument says that it's the GMs' fault ... the other school of thought is that it's the players who are just too greedy ... So general managers have to adjust; now they see athletes as investments and not just talented hockey players." Flyers GM Bobby Clarke: "[W]e have a great sport to sell, but we don't know how to raise the revenues to pay the salaries that are being demanded by our players ... We're one of the high revenue teams in the league, and we're really concerned with where this is going. And we don't know ... how to put the brakes on." Kings GM Dave Taylor: "[I]t's going to be very difficult for the small markets to compete" ("Fox Sports News," FSN, 10/8).
Former U.S. Senator Thomas Eagleton "sparred for more than two hours" Wednesday with NFL attorney Frank Rothman over league guidelines and the Rams' move from California to St. Louis, according to William Lhotka of the ST. LOUIS POST-DISPATCH. The testimony came during the third day of the St. Louis Convention and Visitors Commission's (CVC) $130M antitrust suit against the NFL. Eagleton is the former head of FANS, Inc., which led the drive to lure the Rams, and is "a key witness" for the CVC. Eagleton said the reason NFL owners rejected to team's move in March of '95 and approved it a month later was the agreement to pay a $29M relocation fee and make other concessions. Eagleton: "M-O-N-E-Y, that's what changed the decision between the two meetings, money." But under cross examination, the NFL's Rothman questioned Eagleton about his role in supporting legislation while a U.S. Senator that would have exempted the NFL and other pro sports from antitrust laws, which would have "set guidelines for team relocation that are nearly identical to the guidelines now on NFL books." Eagleton said he introduced that measure to prevent Bill Bidwill, Owner of NFL's St. Louis Cardinals, from moving to Arizona. In other news, Judge Jean Hamilton "agreed to a key defense request -- that the jury not hear any evidence about relocation fees or other issues relating to three other NFL team moves. The judge ruled that because these moves took place after the Rams moved to St. Louis, they aren't part of the trial." U.S. Rep. Richard Gephardt also testified and said that he initiated contact with the Rams in early '94 about moving (POST-DISPATCH, 10/9).
The '97-98 NBA season is previewed by Mike Lupica in MEN'S JOURNAL. Under the header, "Anyone But Mike," Lupica questions which, if any, of the NBA's young players are ready to carry the league's torch after Michael Jordan departs. Lupica: "For some time now, the league has been hiding more garbage behind Jordan than Hollywood hid behind Harrison Ford in Air Force One. Now let's find out if there really is life after Jordan. ... [W]ithout Jordan , is there one player, above all others, who can get us to stay tuned?" Grant Hill, Penny Hardaway, Shaquille O'Neal and Kevin Garnett are noted as possible successors. Hawks Coach Lenny Wilkens: "The league wants it to be Grant, I know that ... But ... I'm not sure if Grant can ever be that guy." Wilkens "nominates" Hardaway: "He doesn't have just the game. I believe he can have the personality, too." TNT's Doc Rivers: "I believe Garnett might be the one to watch, just in terms of star quality." Red Auerbach singles out O'Neal: "[H]e does have that smile." Lupica writes that "[m]arketing is a sacrament in pro basketball" and that Hill, Hardaway, and O'Neal have been "marketed beautifully." He adds that Jordan's coming retirement "doesn't mean we're moving up on some sort of October 1929 for the NBA ... Ratings are good, revenues are sky-high ... the sport is gaining popularity all over the world. But nothing lasts forever" (MEN'S JOURNAL, 11/97 issue).
Today, THE DAILY lists the average gross ticket price of each NFL team in '97. Figures are based on the number of seats at each individual ticket price, when made available. Club and suite seats are not included. Note: (a) indicates a figure based on an approximation given by the club.
NFC TEAM'97'96 AFC TEAM '97 '96 WAS$52.92$40.67 OAK$51.11$51.11 SFO4545 SDC43.2435.02 NYG40.8536 TEN40.3631.76 CAR40.3539.26 NEP-a39.5534 DAL39.9539.39 BAL39.2741.56 MIN39.7829.5 KCC3832 CHI38.1838.56 JAX3737 PHI38.0238 PIT36.0634.34 DET35.8735 BUF35.5832 GBP35.5531.14 CIN35.135.1 TBB35.4631.5 DEN3535 ARZ-a35.4433.28 IND-a34.4232.03 STL34.2634.27 MIA-a34.333 NOS30.6332 SEA32.6534.32 ATL30.3231 NYJ31.0825