The day after the Penguins defeated the Devils in Game 7, they sold an encouraging 4,000 tickets to second-round games. Purchases of individual-game tickets, though, are far less indicative of a team's fan support than its season-ticket base, and Pittsburgh's season-ticket sales have fallen precipitously since Lemieux's retirement. From 1989-90 through 1996-97, the Penguins averaged about 16,000 fans per game and had 12,000 season-ticket holders. During those years Pittsburgh won four division titles and two Stanley Cup championships. Even though the Penguins have gone an impressive 78-54-32 over the past two seasons and employ Jaromir Jagr, the world's best and most exciting offensive player, they have averaged about 14,900 fans per game and have had only 8,300 season-ticket holders. On many nights this season the Civic Arena was more than 25% empty.
The fans' swift desertion of the Penguins has been shocking. Pittsburghers need to remember that the test of loyalty conies in tough times.
Sometimes He Holds His Fire
Is any other NHL player as considerate as Blues defenseman Al MacInnis? He has the league's hardest slap shot (clocked at 100 mph), and courageous defenders sometimes throw themselves in front of MacInnis when he's about to unleash a wicked blast MacInnis could easily brain an opponent or two as a way to make others reluctant to get in his way, but he says, "I don't want to live with ending someone's career."
If a defender is standing in MacInnis's way, he'll still fire a low shot, and this year he broke a bone in a foot of two Coyotes (forward Juha Ylonen and defenseman Gerald Diduck), inspiring Phoenix assistant Gordie Roberts to formulate the " Al MacInnis hat trick: a goal, an assist and a broken foot." When someone goes down in MacInnis's shooting lane, though, as Coyotes captain Keith Tkachuk did repeatedly in the first round of the playoffs, MacInnis passes or skates to another shooting spot. "We all want to play hard and win," says MacInnis, "but hitting someone and hurting someone isn't the way to do it."