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Volume 24 No. 155
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NHL OPENING WEEKEND: NORTH OF THE BORDER DISORDER?

     A look at the NHL's opening weekend finds that, at leastinitially, the league's U.S. cities are outdrawing their Canadiancounterparts.  Of the 12 teams that had their home openers overthe weekend, eight sold out -- all of them American.  Three ofthe four cities short of sell-outs are Canadian, but Tampa Bay -- at 94% on Friday and 82% on Sunday -- drew over 20,000 for eachof its games.  The ThunderDome holds 28,000.  Toronto andMontreal are yet to open their home schedules.  Listed below areattendance and percent capacity for each game (USA TODAY, 1/23;THE DAILY).
FRIDAY
BUF at NYR
18,200
100%
CHI at DET
19,875
100%
STL at SJ
17,190
100%
TOR at LA
16,005
100%
PIT at TAM
26,387
94%
CAL at WIN
13,382
87%
ANA at EDM
14,967
86%
DAL at VAN
12,038
74%
 
SATURDAY
MON at NYR
18,200
100%
QUE at PHI
17,380
100%
TOR at SJ
17,190
100%
WAS at HAR
15,635
100%
FLA at NYI
14,106
87%
STL at VAN
12,558
78%
ANA at WIN
9,725
63%
 
SUNDAY
PHI at BOS
14,448
100%
CAL at DET
19,683
100%
BUF at TAM
22,952
82%
EDM at LA
13,160
82%
NJD at HAR
12,054
77%
OTT at NYI
10,311
63%

NOTES: "In the United States the 3 1/2-month lockout isalready a distant memory to hockey hungry-spectators. But inCanada, cradle of the game, healing will apparently not be sospeedy" (Neil Campbell, Toronto GLOBE & MAIL, 1/23)....Thesmallest crowd the Canucks had last season was 12,479; they drew12,038 on Friday (VANCOUVER SUN, 1/21).... Noting the smallcrowds in Winnipeg, Dave Roberts writes, "There was a feelingWinnipeggers had crossed the Rubicon: They've grown accustomedto the absence of hockey during the labour hiatus and may be ableto live without it in the future." With public funds necessaryfor a new arena, "such indifference" rekindles the possibilitythat the Jets will play elsewhere next year" (Toronto GLOBE &MAIL, 1/23). GAME ON! Spotted during ESPN's Friday night NHL broadcastwere lockout-related spots by Starter and Bud Ice. The Starterspot had scenes of last year's playoffs with an announcer callingthe game as if it were a negotiation. Excerpt: "The lockout isover! The lockout is over! Holy cow, they've reached acollective bargaining agreement!" Bud Ice featured two spots,both with action highlights. The tag-line for one of the Budads: "You miss it? -- This is the ice." The NHL also ran its"Game On!" spot with a scene from "Wayne's World" (ESPN, 1/20).The NHL is spending $10M on the "Game On!" campaign. While theleague managed to keep sponsors Anheuser-Busch, Nike, Molson andFord on board, NHL Enterprises COO Rick Dudley admits the lockoutslowed momentum in adding new sponsors. The NHL and NHLPA arediscussing a promotion with McDonald's, possibly with tradingcards (Gayle MacDonald, FINANCIAL POST, 1/21).