SUN Hockey Pool

Red ink colours NHL map in U.S.

CRAIG ELLINGSON

, Last Updated: 12:18 PM ET

18: Now that we can add the Columbus Blue Jackets to the list of endangered NHL species, a glance at league attendances the past few days suggests more teams beyond the usual suspects could join them.

If you haven't heard, the team is reportedly losing an average of US$12 million a season and needs to bring in more revenue with the help of tax money or a basketball team paying rent, says a Columbus business group.

The Blue Jackets drew a crowd 4,500 short of capacity Wednesday at their home rink, the Nationwide Arena. The 13,498 that saw the San Jose Sharks edge the hosts in a shootout drew well below the capacity of Winnipeg's new-ish barn, the 15,015-seat MTS Centre.

Turns out 19 other games across the league the past week-and-a-half drew below that, too, in markets such as Phoenix, Miami, Atlanta, Long Island and Nashville -- all places which have been on the 'endangered' radar for a while now.

But that list also includes Newark, N.J., Tampa Bay, Denver, Anaheim and Raleigh, N.C.

So while you read in this space last week not to expect flight of such clubs north across the border to the 'Peg, Hamilton and Quebec City thanks to increased TV viewership Stateside, perhaps a few additional reports will surface about more than just the Jackets and Phoenix Coyotes bleeding a whole lotta red.

Problem is, that's 10 clubs with attendance not up to Winnipeg-level snuff.

Canada's only got three former NHL towns they could conceivably fly back to, because while Hamilton once boasted the Tigers (and assuming Saskatchewan, Halifax and Victoria could take in stragglers), Kenora, Ont., isn't ready to welcome a 21st Century, NHL version of the Thistles.

845,000: Speaking of TV audiences, Rogers Sportsnet boasted 845,000 viewers for Tuesday's Toronto Maple Leafs-Tampa Bay Lightning clash at T.O.'s Air Canada Centre, the eighth highest rated broadcast in the network's 11-year history.

It was also its highest ever regional broadcast, breaking its 2007 record of 804,000 on Sportsnet Ontario for a Leafs-New York Islanders broadcast near the end of the 2006-07 season.

"This number proves once again that Sportsnet is the destination for hockey that matters," says Rogers Sportsnet vice-prez Dave Akande, referring to the Tuesday game.

Actually, it proves the greater Toronto area is more than ready for a second team.

A mid-week offering of the two-win Leafs vs. the lukewarm Bolts is a ratings beast? Starved hockey fans, indeed.

1.60: Don't look now, but isn't that Andrew Raycroft playing out of his mind for the Vancouver Canucks in absence of star Roberto Luongo?

At of the conclusion of Friday night's games, 'Rayzer' was tied for the lead on the NHL's save percentage list with Buffalo's Ryan Miller. Both sport a .936 mark. Raycroft's .002 points ahead of fellow standout scrap-heap 'tender Craig Anderson, although the Colorado Avalanche starter has played almost three times as much.

Raycroft is also tops in goals-against average at 1.60 after the Canucks' 4-2 win over the Minnesota Wild Thursday night. So rest up, Bobby Lou, and don't hurry back -- Canada'll need ya all healed up in three months anyway.

SNAP COUNT

16: Interceptions collected by the New Orleans Saints so far in 2009, best in the NFL and already more than their totals (11, 13 and 15) the past three seasons. Poor Jake Delhomme, the league's leader in INTs thrown with 13, whose Carolina Panthers visit the Superdome Sunday. 4: Rank among Dallas Cowboys receivers of the team's supposed No.-1 pass-catcher Roy Williams, who has 14 catches for 249 yards and two touchdowns this season. He's behind Patrick Crayton (20-291-2), Jason Witten (37-348-1), and Miles Austin (26-563-6). -51: Combined turnover ratio of the NFL's bottom six teams, which have won a collective 10 games heading into Week 9. $650-million: Pricetag now being applied to a new domed stadium for the Saskatchewan Roughriders to replace aged Taylor Field in Regina. That's a whole lotta Gainer tails the grain-lubbers have to lop off them critters come spring.

CRAIG.ELLINGSON@SUNMEDIA.CA


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