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NHL notes: More attendance problems for Coyotes

The Phoenix Coyotes, under new ownership, are still having trouble attracting fans to certain...

The Phoenix Coyotes, under new ownership, are still having trouble attracting fans to certain games. (Dave Abel/QMI Agency/Files)

QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 9:43 PM ET

The Phoenix Coyotes, again, are dead last in attendance.

They’re the only club in the NHL currently averaging less than 13,000 fans a game and midweek meetings with the Carolina Hurricanes and New York Islanders this month drew far less than that.

Simply put, not much has changed under IceArizona, which purchased the struggling ‘Yotes earlier this year.

“I’m probably a little disappointed in where we are with attendance,” Coyotes CEO Anthony LeBlanc told the Arizona Republic. “There are those marquee games like the Chicago game, which was obviously a very big night for us from the perspective that we broke the regular-season franchise record for gate revenue for a single game. But (two weeks ago), we had the Islanders and Carolina in town and there was roughly 10,000, 11,000 people in the building, and that’s simply not good enough.”

Maybe more concerning is the fact Phoenix is averaging about 1,000 fewer fans than it did last season after the league relinquished complete control of the team.

“Our next home game on Dec. 27 against San Jose, that’s going to be a sellout,” LeBlanc said. “That’s encouraging, but overall it would be unfair for me to say that I’m thrilled with where things are. There are some positives, but there’s a lot more work. We need stronger support.”

At one point the Coyotes were middle of the pack in terms of league-wide attendance, averaging close to 16,000 fans per game during the early 2000s.

Since then, they’ve become more or less irrelevant in the desert, and have wrestled back in forth with the New York Islanders for least attendance league-wide in recent seasons.

CROSBY’S CHRISTMAS BREAK

The fight the NHL Players’ Association put up this time last year was well worth it.

The league’s new collective bargaining agreement has granted players three days off during Christmas this season as opposed to two in previous years.

And with the 2014 Sochi Games right around the corner, one of hockey’s biggest stars is coming out in support of needed rest.

“It’s been busy,” Crosby told the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. “This month especially, you start to feel it a little bit more. You just try to use your days off and rest when you can, but it’s a lot of hockey. Probably even more mentally than physically, you just have to make sure that you get away from the rink for a day and then get back at it.”

The Penguins played four times in six days before Christmas Eve and wrap up December with two home dates against the Carolina Hurricanes and Columbus Blue Jackets before heading to New Jersey.

“When you talk about guys going home … that’s one whole day where you don’t have to travel and you get to rest,” Crosby said. “Before, you had two days, but you were traveling for one, pretty much. It’s nice to get that extra day, especially this time of year. I think we can all appreciate that and be with our families.”

The NHL last played on Christmas in 1971. It played on Christmas Eve a year later in 1972, according to the San Jose Mercury News.

PANTHERS ACTIVATE THOMAS

Tim Thomas could return to the Florida Panthers’ net after missing the last two weeks with a recurring groin injury.

Thomas hasn’t played since the Panthers topped the Detroit Red Wings 3-2 on Dec. 10, and he’s been on the club’s injured reserve list three times already this season.

The Miami Herald reported Christmas Eve that Jacob Markstrom, Scott Clemmensen’s backup, has been re-assigned to the club’s AHL affiliate to make room for Thomas, who could start against the Red Wings on Saturday.


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