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The ripple effect
Strong play hasn't improved attendance
1/6/04 - By Paul Krill

Despite appearances, all is not well in Shark-Land. Yes, the Sharks are in first place and even notched a rare win in Saint Louis over the weekend. The team is somehow winning through a mad-scientist recipe that subtracted the team's two best players (Owen Nolan, Teemu Selanne) and drastically cut payroll. Who'd have thought the Sharks would be in first place right now? I certainly didn't.

Some of the most exciting Sharks hockey in years is happening this season. That, and a whole lot of ties. With the dual wins over Anaheim, the 5-0 drubbing of the Kings and the aforementioned victory over the Blues, we can only hope the winning, or even the ties, will not be short-lived.

Regardless of improvements on the ice, though, things are really not all that well. What I'm referring to are the thousands of empty seats at each Sharks game. For years now, we've been accustomed to full houses or near-full houses at Sharks games. That is not so anymore, with just two sellouts in the first 18 home games.

Previously, I used to be able to easily sell off my tickets when I couldn't use them. Now I feel like a variation of an old Henny Youngman joke: "Take my Sharks tickets - Please!"

The Sharks appear to be suffering from a ripple effect of last year's disappointing campaign. That last-place finish, and the departure of Nolan, dampened enthusiasm and maybe a lot of those fans are not ready to come back.

Additionally, many Sharks fans undoubtedly have lost their jobs in the dotcom bust. Sharks tickets have to be atop the "Unnecessary Expenditures" list when unemployment hits. Many fans probably have left the Bay Area altogether.

Perhaps we'll need both a strong economy and a strong Sharks team before fans will start packing the building again. In the meantime, I guess I'll have to keep enjoying Sharks games I hadn't planned on going to but couldn't sell off, even if my second seat is utilized by my jacket and Sharks program.

Penalty Shots
The looming labor problems leave a dark cloud over the entire league. Team owners, tired of mounting multi-million-dollar losses, are pledging "cost certainty," with a salary cap a likely solution. Players, meanwhile, are vowing to never accept a salary cap. It will be interesting to see who blinks first and what form the NHL takes when it's all over. It could be a long, ugly battle…

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