Kukla's Korner Hockey
by Paul on 07/18/05 at 08:49 AM ET
Among the reasons for the National Hockey League's decision to lock out the players was a desire to perpetuate hockey in some of its less traditional markets. Now, with cost certainty in place and a revamped game being offered to the public, those markets will have to try to win back their fans who, for the most part, exhibited a profound disinterest to the game's absence. There is no specific formula. In each instance, the team will face issues that may or may not be relevant in other markets. In Columbus, the game should do well. Crowds were solid before the lockout, and in that part of Ohio, hockey was the fastest-rising participatory sport. Since then, the league took a year off, but in that time, Rick Nash, who justifiably is adored in Columbus, has become even better. And this is a kid who tied for the league lead in goal scoring in 2003-04. The Blue Jackets have a solid marketing organization and a fan base that likely is to forgive and forget. Not only will the team survive, it is poised to become one of the league's more successful franchises, following the models of Colorado and Dallas. But in Phoenix, the quest for acceptance will be a much more difficult road. Sources say that part-owner Wayne Gretzky is under tremendous pressure from the majority owner to increase his profile. He won't play again, so he'll have to coach.
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