SUN Hockey Pool

Fans not filling some NHL arenas

LANCE HORNBY -- Toronto Sun

, Last Updated: 8:49 AM ET

The NHL -- the No Holding League -- is more entertaining to watch, but not all fans are breaking down the doors for a peek.

Full houses in Toronto, Minnesota and Philadelphia (the Flyers attendance has gone up) have contrasted with some half-empty buildings. As the Nashville Predators' winning streak goes up, their crowds have dipped from 17,000 to 16,279, to two games of just above 12,000.

The New York Islanders have begin to lag, unable to sell out against the New York Rangers, their traditional rival, while crowds in Chicago and Raleigh, N.C., have looked sparse as well.

The Colorado Avalanche continue to announce a full house, thus preserving an 18,007-seat sellout streak that dates back to November 1995. But the club is now hawking season and single-game tickets on TV and on the Internet, which could spell the end of their sellout run fairly soon.

The Florida Panthers have had two games cancelled by Hurricane Wilma. The St. Louis Blues are down, partially because of a poor record, but like many American cities, hockey is a slow starter until baseball and football cool off, never mind post-lockout jitters.

ADIEU RON, RON

The Carolina Hurricanes announced yesterday that Ron Francis' No. 10 will be retired at a home game against Atlanta on Jan. 28. Francis announced his retirement on Sept. 14, following a 23-year career with Hartford, Pittsburgh, Carolina and Toronto.

GARDENS GOAL JUDGE DEAD

Bev Wright, a reliable goal judge at Maple Leaf Gardens for more than 25 years and a member of Conn Smythe's 30th Sportsmen's Battery in World War II, passed away Oct. 11. He was recognized by his familiar white hair and moustache.

MARLIES MARK 75TH

The Toronto Marlies will be celebrating 75 years as a minor hockey organization when their AHL namesakes take on the Hershey Bears this Saturday. Pre-game honourees include ex-Leaf and Marlie Steve Thomas, who now coaches a Marlies triple-A team, Leafs assistant and former Marlie Junior A coach Paul Dennis and wife Lynn, a Marlies director, and Hershey coach Bruce Boudreau, who had 409 points for the Dukes before joining the Leafs.

BRIEFLY

The Marlies are hopeful that defenceman Carlo Colaiacovo (shoulder) will return by the weekend. Forward Roman Kukumberg, the Leafs' second pick in 2004, nearly is recovered from a knee injury that has kept him out of action since Leaf camp.


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