A LITTLE CLOUD
The decline of fan enthusiasm for professional hockey that was glaringly evident in preseason exhibition games (SCORECARD, Oct. 16) is seeping into regular-season sales, too. At any rate, the National Hockey League is having a bit of trouble getting rid of tickets. Even such cold beds of hockey as Boston, Montreal and Toronto have noticed the trend. Boston still has its routine sellouts, but whereas in past years all seats were sold days in advance, tickets to a game a few Sundays ago between the Bruins and the New York Islanders were still available two hours before face-off. In Toronto, where Maple Leaf Gardens has been sold out solid for a quarter of a century and a spare ticket was a collector's item, as many as 400 seats have been put on sale the day of a game. Montreal has had gaps of empty seats at the Forum, and officials there were talking about package deals in which a buyer must purchase tickets to three or four so-so games in order to get one for a "good" game.
No one is sure whether the slight sag is the result of inroads made by the World Hockey Association, the deflating effect of the Russia- Canada hockey series or simply the inevitable result of overexpansion. Whatever the cause, it is enough to make hockey executives sit up and take notice.
WHAT ALEX SAYS
Alex Hawkins, the television announcer who had a reputation for being blunt and outspoken when he played for the Baltimore Colts a few years back, did not have anything to say about hockey when Sportswriter Bill Tanton interviewed him in Baltimore recently, but he did say, "All pro sports are in trouble. There are too many teams, too many players, too many general managers, too many coaches." He felt there was a definite decline in interest. 'There used to be a banner flying at the stadium at all Colt games," he recalled. "It said, 'We Love Our Colts.' You don't see that banner anymore. And Baltimore is not the only place where fans are becoming indifferent. I broadcast a game in New Orleans where they announced a crowd of 65,664. They had that many tickets sold, but there were only about 45,000 people there. People don't feel the way they used to about sports and athletes."
Warming to his theme, Hawkins went on: "The most destructive force in pro football today is the Players' Association. There was a time when we needed the association to get salaries up to a decent level. But it has outlived its usefulness. Athletes today are just a bunch of guys going to work. That's the essence of the problem: players have to decide whether they want to be union men or heroes. The public wants heroes, but these guys take it too lightly."
Bob Lemon was fired by the Kansas City Royals for being too old (SCORECARD, Oct. 16), and the Employment Standards Division of the U.S. Department of Labor said it was going to see if there had been a violation of the Age Discrimination in Employment Act. For all you Bob Lemon and Department of Labor fans, there has been a happy ending. During the World Series, Lemon was made a "special assignment" scout for the Royals. "He was rehired at the same salary he was making as manager," says Rex Wayman, area director of the Employment Standards Division, "so we simply have dropped the issue." An un-sour Lemon said, "I didn't really ever leave the organization. I'm very happy the way things turned out."
When Arthur B. (Mickey) McBride died last week at 85, older pro football fans recalled that the man who founded the Cleveland Browns in the mid-'40s was responsible for introducing a now famous term to the lexicon of sport. When McBride ran the Browns, he was also president of the Yellow Cab Company in Cleveland. Players not on the active roster whom Coach Paul Brown wanted to keep around for emergencies were often put to work driving McBride's cabs. Thus the term "taxi squad."
Chile's national basketball team is on tour in the U.S. at the moment, and if you are wondering what a South American basketball team looks like, it looks tired. The Chileans, who are coached by Peace Corps volunteer Dan Peterson, former head coach at Delaware, are following a schedule that calls for 36 games in 39 days. Their itinerary takes them from Delaware through Maryland, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, the Carolinas, upstate New York, Illinois, Wisconsin, Tennessee, Missouri, Michigan, Ohio, Nebraska, Texas, New Mexico, Utah, back to North Carolina, upstate New York and Pennsylvania again and, finally, to Miami. The players range in age from 19 to 33. By the time they get to Miami they'll feel a lot older.