In Toronto, Dave Perkins writes on the Blue Jays hiring TSN/ESPN analyst and former Blue Jay Buck Martinez as their new manager: "Martinez obviously was the very public face the franchise decided it needed as this point in its history, as the Jays slide closer and closer to relative sporting oblivion in Toronto. ... They need to once again draw the kind of people who used to pack the joint, back in the good old days, when it was trendy" (Toronto STAR, 11/3). Also in Toronto, Richard Griffin calls Martinez' hiring a "slam-dunk in terms" of PR. But "in terms of effect in the dugout, the move has the hold-your-breath iffiness of a fadeaway 30-footer at the buzzer" (TORONTO STAR, 11/3). WHERE WAS JACOBS? In Boston, Karen Guregian notes that Bruins Owner Jeremy Jacobs was "missing" at yesterday's press conference where Harry Sinden stepped down as the team's GM. Guregian: "Once again, the Bruins CEO sent the kind of message that has prompted even the loyalest fans to abandon ship" (BOSTON HERALD, 11/3).
Boca Resorts Chair Wayne Huizenga told company shareholders yesterday "there has been a lot of activity" regarding the potential sale of the NHL Panthers, but "there have been no offers," according to Patrick Danner of the MIAMI HERALD. Boca Resorts has been trying to sell the club for "nearly a year," as officials believe the team "is a drag on the stock price." Asked why it is taking so long to sell the team, Huizenga said, "First, what's happening in sports today is a little difficult. We have had significant interest. We just have not been able to agree on a price." Danner: "Without elaborating on those difficulties, Huizenga said declining attendance has not been a factor in the failure to find a buyer" (MIAMI HERALD, 11/3). Company officials told Charles Elmore of the PALM BEACH POST that they are talking to a prospective buyer from outside FL and are "willing to be flexible on an asking price that was once" in the $150-175M range. Boca Resorts Vice Chair Rich Rochon, on the $175M asking price: "We're not going to give it away, but we're going to listen to offers below that." Officials "repeated assurances the team would remain" in South FL because of a 30-year lease at the National Car Rental Center. Huizenga said that neither Boca Resorts investor Bill Gates nor former Devils Owner John McMullen are suitors of the team (PALM BEACH POST, 11/3).
Through last night's games, only six of the NBA's 23 home openers have been reported as sellouts. On Tuesday, only four of the 13 openers were sellouts (Raptors, Knicks, Bulls and Trail Blazers), on Wednesday, two of seven openers were played before a full house (Lakers, Sonics), while last night, none of the three home openers were sold out (THE DAILY). In Minneapolis, Dan Barreiro writes that attendance from the first week of the NBA season "suggest some folks are less than overwhelmed" (Minneapolis STAR TRIBUNE, 11/3). In NC, Lenox Rawlings writes under the header, "NBA Fever Blister: Once Blazing Hot, Stern's League Now Plays Before Thousands Of Empty Seats" (WINSTON-SALEM JOURNAL, 11/3). On FoxSports.com, Mike Monroe writes, "As optimistic as [NBA Commissioner] David Stern says he is about improved attendance this season, there was some ominously bad signs on opening night" (FoxSports.com, 11/3). LAST NIGHT: In Phoenix, Norm Frauenheim reports that the Suns drew an announced crowd of 18,436 for their home opener against the Trail Blazers last night at 19,023-seat America West Arena, the first time in ten years the Suns have not sold out their home opener. Suns GM Bryan Colangelo: "I'm disappointed that the sellout did not occur. ... Without question, there is apathy in the industry, particularly in this market. Every sport is underperforming" (AZ REPUBLIC, 11/3). Also in Phoenix, Dan Bickley writes that last night's attendance is "a sign of the times, and more an indictment of the league than the Suns. In short, bad basketball, boorish athletes and skyrocketing ticket prices have combined to suck the joy out of the NBA" (AZ REPUBLIC, 11/3)....The Nuggets drew 15,790 for last night's opener against the Warriors at the 19,099- seat Pepsi Center (DENVER POST, 11/3). REACHING OUT TO FANS IN THE MOTOR CITY: In Detroit, Lynn Henning writes on the Pistons' marketing slogan, "Every Night," which "translated is a team that will put it all on the floor every minute of every game, in attempting to give at least a championship effort until championship-caliber players abound." Pistons President Tom Wilson, on the slogan: "It's a simple mantra. What's interesting about the Every Night campaign is that never in my 20-odd years here have I heard anything like this." Other marketing initiatives for the Pistons include phone calls to past season-ticket holders and more community relations, with Pistons players "doing everything from fixing up old homes in Detroit to delivering food baskets." Meanwhile, Henning writes that the team's TV and radio announcers "will be on the offensive -- without being offensive," in hopes of generating excitement around the team (DETROIT NEWS, 11/3). Also in Detroit, Rob Parker writes, "Don't expect a sellout tonight at the Palace. In fact, don't look for one all season. ... Attendance-wise, the Pistons have hit rock bottom. Some crowds [this season] could be so small that they might be considered witnesses" (DETROIT NEWS, 11/3). TIP-INS: Heat Owner Micky Arison said that ticket sales "have come close to expectations," though they "fell off" after C Alonzo Mourning's recent announcement that he would miss the entire season with a kidney ailment. But Arison said, "If we win a lot of games, I think the fans will be here" (MIAMI HERALD, 11/2)....Heat G Eddie Jones, on previously playing for the Hornets: "It [Charlotte] wasn't a basketball city, not a great deal of fan support. I didn't feel like the people really enjoyed the game" (MIAMI HERALD, 11/3)....SI's Richard Hoffer profiles Mavs Owner Mark Cuban and writes that Cuban is "frustrated that all his ideas, which were celebrated in the Internet industry, percolate to no appreciable effect in the NBA." Pacers President Donnie Walsh, on Cuban's treatment of his players, which includes upgraded hotel rooms, special meals and enhanced locker room conditions: "The problem with Mark is, he might force us to go out and do those things (for our players). But, in the meantime, my one comment to him is, I don't think there are any stupid people in this league" (SI, 11/6 issue).
Speaking at a press conference to announce a sponsorship deal with the Bank of Montreal (B of M) and its investment banking partner, Ottawa-based BMO Nesbitt Burns (BMO), "which could be worth more than" C$1M over three years, Senators Chair Rod Bryden "sent a warning: Fans need to buy tickets," according to Bruce Garrioch of the OTTAWA SUN. Bryden said that the "number of empty seats -- which has been higher than anticipated -- means he won't be able to meet his goal of breaking even this season because revenues won't meet expectations." Heading into last night's game against the Rangers, the Senators' average attendance in the 18,500-seat Corel Centre was 17,203, 10% "lower than anticipated." Bryden: "The problem is not the business community, it's individual seats. If people want to keep the team together, then they have to buy tickets." Garrioch notes that the team has 11,300 season-ticket holders, but Bryden said that "more than 800 people who committed to buying season tickets during the club's campaign last year didn't follow through" (OTTAWA SUN, 11/3). Also in Ottawa, Michael Prentice writes that B of M and BMO will pay "several hundred thousand dollars" to the team and the arena this season for ad and promo rights, with "much of the money" expected to pay for ad signs inside and outside of the Corel Centre. Bryden said that the deal "might grow to be worth more than" C$1M annually in future seasons (OTTAWA CITIZEN, 11/3). The deal will make B of M and BMO the team's official financial advisor (Senators).