Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Fans Welcome Season-Quietly

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Fans Welcome Season-Quietly

Article excerpt

The Blues had no trouble waking up the echoes for their third decade on ice.

Thousands of empty seats did the acoustic job Friday night at Kiel Center.

A tougher task will be arousing the many fans they have turned off in the past year. Here's a handy marketing tip. Play more home games like this 4-2 victory over the defending Stanley Cup champion Colorado Avalanche. It began as a hollow night. The fireworks and laser show that opened this "30 Years of Memories" season reverberated through the 20,000-seat Kiel. Aside from nearly 3,000 unsold seats, there were thousands of no-shows when Jackie Joyner-Kersee - who was 4 years old when the Blues were born in 1967 - dropped the ceremonial first puck. At least this year, coach and general manager Mike Keenan was not booed when introduced. That's because he was not introduced to the crowd - which was announced as 16,668, an official act of wishful thinking. The National Hockey League and ESPN picked a dandy as their showcase game to open the 1996-97 season. They apparently thought this was still a hockey town. Thanks to the best efforts of the Cardinals and the worst efforts of the Blues, St. Louis is a baseball town again in October. Hockey in this town has regressed to the mid-1980s, when Ralston Purina and then Harry Ornest mistreated some of the best fans in North America. Even so, the Blues had the night to themselves here. The Cardinals had a playoff travel day to San Diego, and the Rams won't be carved up here by the San Francisco 49ers until Sunday. So the Blues had no competition except high school football and power volleyball in the Webster Groves rec gym. So where was everyone? And that goes for players as well as fans. The much ballyhooed youth movement became two new youngsters in the lineup. Forwards Jim Campbell and Harry York, however, were two of the best players on the ice. But Jamie Rivers was sent to Worcester before the game. Fellow rookies Libor Zabransky and Konstantin Shafranov went to the press box, as did Robert Petrovicky and defenseman Christer Olsson. The boys on the ice, including 38-year-old hatless youngster Craig MacTavish, had plenty of jump. …

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