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EVEN THE LEADER OF THE FREE WORLD GETS INTO PLAYOFF HOCKEY
Published May 27, 1998
President Clinton attended Game Two of the Sabres- Capitals Eastern Conference finals on Monday night at the MCI Center, according to Liz Clarke of the WASHINGTON POST. It marked the first time a sitting U.S. president had attended an NHL game. Clinton watched from the suite of Capitals Owner Abe Pollin and was joined by Vice President Al Gore, U.S. Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan (D-NY), HUD Secretary Andrew Cuomo and NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman. Clinton spent the first period in his seat in the open-air suite and then spent "much of the second period" inside the owner's box (WASHINGTON POST, 5/26). During the second intermission, Clinton was interviewed by ESPN's Brian Hayward. Clinton, on the game: "Well first of all, it's much more exciting in person, even, than on television -- no offense to ESPN. I watch hockey when you show it. ... I'm having the time of my life. I love this" (NHL). NUMBERS: Through the conference semifinal round, the league had averaged 18,216 fans per game, playing to 99.2% capacity, which is up slightly from last year (NHL). On "The Sports Reporters," ESPN's Bob Ryan, asked if hockey is still a major sport: "The issue here is television ratings. It's not the sport. They have 90-X percent capacity filled every year [in] their arenas ... but it doesn't translate well to TV." ESPN's Mike Lupica, asked if a sport is "dead" if it doesn't translate well to TV: "I don't think so. ... [W]hen you go to see this sport still ... it's a fabulous sport" ("The Sports Reporters," ESPN, 5/24). CONSTRUCTIVE CRITICISM: In N.Y., Joe Lapointe, under the header, "Winter Game, Spring Identity Crisis," writes that Bettman and company need to "realistically address a few critical problems" over the off-season. Among those listed: "Shortening the season"; "Getting serious about rule changes"; "Accepting Constructive Criticism" and "Fixing the Fox Problem." He writes that ratings may be down because of the "bizarre, low-ice camera angles" that Fox has "actually increased in recent weeks. A sport thought difficult to televise does not become more telegenic when directors make it even harder to follow" (Joe Lapointe, N.Y. TIMES, 5/27). JACOBS' LEDGER: Bruins Owner Jeremy Jacobs, on player salaries and the free agent market: "I think the market is way out of line because of some stupid things that have been done with some of these contracts. ... There are a lot of idiots out there, so you never know what is going to happen. Look at the Rangers and their payroll -- and they didn't even make the playoffs." Jacobs also cited contracts given out by the Canucks and Penguins and added, "Money is not always the answer" (Will McDonough, BOSTON GLOBE, 5/23).