NHL Franchise Notes: Panthers Fail To Sell Out First Playoff Game Since '00
In Ft. Lauderdale, Craig Davis noted the NHL Panthers “drew an announced attendance of 19,119” at BankAtlantic Center Friday for Game One of the team's Eastern Conference Quarterfinals series against the Devils. The game was the Panthers' first playoff game in 12 years, but team President & COO Michael Yormark said the attendance number fell short of a sellout by “a couple hundred tickets.” There were “scattered empty seats in all three levels,” as the South Florida sports dollar “was spread thin Friday with the Marlins opening their first homestand at Marlins Park, and the Heat also playing at home” (SUN-SENTINEL.com, 4/13). Last night's Devils-Panthers Game Two drew a crowd of 19,248 (South Florida Sun-SENTINEL, 4/16).
A ROCK AND A HARD PLACE: A Newark STAR-LEDGER editorial stated Newark Mayor Cory Booker’s recent attacks on Devils Chair & Managing Partner Jeff Vanderbeek “have gotten way out of hand.” What seemed at first “like a temper tantrum has morphed into a sustained campaign of demonization,” and the “criticism is not only unjustified, it could discourage others from investing in the city.” The editorial: “What is the endgame? Is Booker playing to the home audience, beating up on a rich out-of-towner to burnish his own street cred? Our hope is that these two can sit down and make a deal” (Newark STAR-LEDGER, 4/15). Vanderbeek said last week that he “regrets coming to Newark, that he should have listened to the cynics who told him to stay away.” In Newark, Steve Politi wrote some of Vanderbeek’s comments are “posturing,” but the city “certainly shouldn’t have the same regrets.” Vanderbeek, in “spearheading the effort to build a world-class arena in downtown, has done more to help the infrastructure and image of Newark than nearly anybody in the past three decades” (Newark STAR-LEDGER, 4/15).
THE PLACE TO BE: In Montreal, Stu Cowan wrote Bridgestone Arena “sure looks like a fun place to be.” A sellout crowd of 17,113 was “in a party mood Wednesday night as the Predators beat the Detroit Red Wings 3-2 in Game 1 of their playoff series, marking the 26th sellout of the season in Nashville.” Nashville Tennessean Predators beat writer Josh Cooper said the team is “pretty big on the whole entertainment aspect of the game.” Cooper: "The atmosphere you get in traditional markets is much more about the actual product on the ice, whereas in a place like Nashville they try to make it a whole family-type experience with cheerleaders and a band and all sorts of other stuff.” The Predators filled 97.5% of their seats this season, and Cooper said that Predators games “have become the place to be seen in Nashville” (Montreal GAZETTE, 4/14).
WILD DOGS: NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman discussed the league's ownership of the Coyotes on NBC Sports Network's "CNBC Sports Biz: Game On," and said the league “really recognized with all the uncertainty that surrounded the franchise it’s been a Hercluean effort in the community and the support by the fans has been great." Bettman: "But we do need to find a new owner. It’s something that we continue to work on and it’s something that we work on very closely with the city of Glendale.” Bettman noted other markets “have enhanced the speculation as to what might happen, because they’d like a franchise and that interest is gratifying." Bettman: "But we do try everything possible to keep a franchise where it’s located" ("CNBC Sports Biz: Game On," NBC Sports Network, 4/13).