Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Kplr Bets Fans Are Hungry for Hockey

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Kplr Bets Fans Are Hungry for Hockey

Article excerpt

As the Blues emerge from the deep freeze, will their fans thaw out in front of their televisions to watch an abbreviated season?

Those who televise the games are betting that the answer is a resounding yes.

The TV schedule is not yet set. But expect most of the club's games to be shown locally, with KPLR (Channel 11) and the Prime Sports Network sharing the package.

Will ratings suffer from a backlash of fan unrest because of the National Hockey League's lockout?

"No - in a word," KPLR general manager Max Lummis said Thursday. "I've been around too long and seen how viewers and fans react, no matter what happens. My view is that they will do as well as they would have if there was no (labor) problem."

Blues play-by-play man Ken Wilson is raring to go.

"I'll be taking the `Oh, Baby' for a walk once in a while," he said.

"I would be surprised if the interest isn't as high as ever, if not even better than ever. I'd be surprised if the ratings aren't better than at any time in the last two or three seasons. I think this market is so much different than other places in the league. The attitude is different here.

"People are looking forward to seeing Al MacInnis play and Mike Keenan coach instead of dwelling on the labor situation. I don't think there is much animosity here."

Four key factors make the Blues a local ratings hit despite the recent labor woes:

The Blues are perceived in a positive light. They regularly have signed free agents and hired the high-profile Keenan as general manager-coach. That has heightened interest in the team and created a feeling that the Blues are trying to win.

There is an increased interest in sports in general. The Los Angeles Rams of the National Football League are on the verge of moving to town, and St. Louis University has returned to a place of prominence in college basketball.

Fans are starved. There has been no major-league sports here since the Cardinals went on strike more than five months ago. …

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