While the Capitals have announced that they are
     averaging 15,688 fans in 10 games played at the MCI Center,
     reporters covering the team "are skeptical about those
     figures," according to David Shoalts of the Toronto GLOBE &
     MAIL.  Published reports have said there are usually
     thousands of no-shows at each game, with actual crowds often
     estimated to be below 10,000.  Shoalts writes one reason is
     that the "majority" of the Caps' market "is made up of white
     fans" who live in the suburbs and "have resisted a long
     drive downtown to an area where many believe their safety is
     at risk."  Caps GM George McPhee: "This hasn't been as bad
     as everybody says.  The problem is we've had nine of 10
     games scheduled at home during the Christmas break, which is
     a byproduct of getting as many games as we can scheduled in
     the new building.  But I don't think people want to go to
     four hockey games a week on weekdays" (GLOBE & MAIL, 1/8).
          TREND TO WATCH?  Shoalts writes that Caps attendance
     "follows a depressing trend of NHL owners," as sellouts
     "have proved hard to come by in Boston, Buffalo and Ottawa,
     all cities that had new arenas open in the past two years." 
     McPhee: "The bottom line is that except for a few markets
     like Toronto and San Jose, you have to win to sell tickets." 
     While Shoalts writes that the Caps may be faced with a
     "mostly urban market if most of their old fans resist
     driving into the city," a look around the arena during
     Tuesday's Maple Leafs game "showed far more black fans
     [than] are generally seen at NHL games" (GLOBE & MAIL, 1/8).

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