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).
The NBA's CBA negotiations were examined on "NBA
Showtime" on Sunday by NBC's Peter Vecsey, who spoke with
NBA Deputy Commissioner Russ Granik, agent David Falk, NBPA
President Patrick Ewing and NBPA Exec Dir Billy Hunter.
Falk: "I think if you lock the players out, you risk losing
the fans for the next four or five years and creating Major
League Baseball." Granik, asked why a new deal would be
better from '95, since the same people are doing the
negotiating: "Well, you know, hopefully we can be a little
smarter this time." Ewing, on a hard cap: "We as players,
we're not going to go for a hard cap because it will be too
restrictive." Vecsey: "In any way, shape or form?" Ewing:
"In any way, shape or form." Hunter appeared live from
Oakland and said that the NBPA is currently awaiting a
second counter offer from the NBA: "I think [the NBA] will
admit to you that they were rather surprised at the offer
that I put on the table from the get go. It was a creative
offer, it was a substantive offer, and an offer that's
generally not made that early in negotiations. But I came
to the negotiations with the intent on trying to reach an
agreement, and I put forth what I thought to be a
substantive offer -- one that the owners could in fact
either live with or attempt to negotiate over." After his
report, Vecsey said he believed that no games will be lost
to a lockout next season: "I don't think they're going to
miss a beat. I really don't" ("NBA Showtime," NBC, 5/24).
REAX TO NBC REPORT: USA TODAY's Rudy Martzke wrote that
NBC "devoted too much attention to viewer-turnoff league
labor problems" (USA TODAY, 5/26). But in Baltimore, Milton
Kent wrote that NBC's report on the CBA negotiations "was a
welcome change from the normal" (Baltimore SUN, 5/26).
MORE CBA: In Denver, Todd Phipers on NBC's report:
"Bottom-line summation: There still are major differences to
be settled" between the two sides (DENVER POST, 5/26). In
L.A., Mark Heisler wrote, "There is suspicion that [David]
Stern won't reveal his proposal until bargaining starts in
earnest, this summer, after the lockout" (L.A. TIMES, 5/24).
A SOCIAL PHENOM: Pulitzer Prize-winning author David
Halberstam is writing a book on Michael Jordan scheduled for
a November release. Halberstam, whose other NBA book, "The
Breaks Of The Game," chronicled the '79-80 Trail Blazers,
said his new book will explore "what made him not just a
great player but a phenomenon, a social phenomenon that
transcends basketball, transcends sports and transcends
national boundaries. How that happened is intriguing" (N.Y.
POST, 5/25). Halberstam: "It's mostly about Michael, but
also, in the background, are the changes in the league --
the world of chartered jets and bodyguards and $10 million,
$20 million salaries" (ROCKY MOUNTAIN NEWS, 5/24).
Memorial Day weekend's racing schedule saw the 82nd
running of the Indy 500 on Sunday, the CART Motorola 300 on
Saturday and NASCAR's Coca-Cola 600 on Sunday night. In
Indy, Robin Miller wrote that for the "first time in my 35
years at IMS, empty seats were noticeable on race day."
While IMS, in traditional fashion, gave no attendance
figure, Miller puts his "unofficial estimate" at around
290,000, down from the usual 330,000 to 350,000. Miller
added that while it is "still the largest gathering in
motorsports," interest in the Indy 500 "continues to
decline" (STAR-NEWS, 5/25). In Cincinnati, Tom Groeschen
wrote that Indy "still can claim to be the largest one-day
sporting event in America" (CINCINNATI ENQUIRER, 5/26).
AT GATEWAY: In St. Louis, Christopher Carey reports
that racing teams and fans who came to Saturday's Motorola
300 at Gateway Int'l Raceway spent "about" $6.7M at hotels,
restaurants and other businesses in the area. The total
impact of the race, including the "multiplier effect," will
bring $16.9M to the local economy over three days, a 12.7%
increase over last year's race. Saturday's attendance was
around 60,000 (ST. LOUIS POST-DISPATCH, 5/24).