Kukla's Korner Hockey
by Paul on 09/23/05 at 03:33 PM ET
The response of fans south of the border will be equally, if not more, crucial to the game’s future. While hockey may be Canada’s national game, all but six of the 30 NHL teams are now based in US cities. Several, especially those in such un-wintry places as Tampa, Florida, and Phoenix, Arizona, were struggling to fill arena seats even before the lockout. “The kids didn’t aspire to the NHL with the players not in the newspapers or on TV every day”, says John Castine, who publishes a weekly amateur hockey paper in Michigan, where the passion for hockey runs as high as in Ontario or Saskatchewan. About 400 of Michigan’s amateur teams, or a fifth of the total, have disappeared over the past year. The NHL lockout coincided with widening job losses in Detroit’s automotive industry, putting the cost of basic equipment ($500-600) and ice time ($300 a month) beyond many blue-collar families.
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