Fans respondwith sellouts

Oct 11, 2005 1:13 AM

What strike?

All the National Hockey League rinks are carrying the "Thank You Fans" message on the ice and the response has been off the chart.

"It’s a new season for hockey and the fans have really taken to the changes," said Rich Dressler, race and sports manager at the Imperial Palace. "From what I’ve seen in our book, the fans have no grudges. We’re drawing very well here."

Opening night in the NHL last Wednesday was a huge success, even if ESPN didn’t overkill us with coverage since losing the national TV package to Outdoor Life Network (OLN).

The 30 hockey arenas in league cities around the USA and Canada were filled to capacity, led by an overflow crowd of over 22,000 in Tampa to see the defending ’03-04 Stanley Cup champ Lightning defeat Carolina 5-2.

"If anything the fans are more rabid than ever," said Dressler, whose IP property was a staple for weekly Wednesday Night hockey specials. "The oddsmakers have done a nice job in adjusting to the "over / under" totals thus far. The results have basically been 50-50 through three games."

In the 33 games played during the first five nights of the NHL season, the "over" was 15-16-2 with just two shutouts. However, the average line was raised a full goal from 5-to-6 from what it had been two years ago.

"We may have to throw in some puck lines soon, particular the 1½ goals prices," Dressler said. "Chasers and interior betting are also options we are considering."

THUMBS UP: The Detroit Red Wings are off to a 3-0 start and among the NHL leaders with 15 goals. . . Much maligned Jaromir Jagr scored a pair of goals for the New York Rangers in their opening win against Stanley Cup favorite Philadelphia (3-1 odds at Caesars Palace).

DOWN: Wayne Gretzky. The "Great One" stumbled as a rookie coach for the Phoenix Coyotes, which lost identical 3-2 decisions on the road against Vancouver and Los Angeles. Gretz did win his home opener against Minnesota, 2-1. . . St. Louis. The Blues yielded a league high 15 goals in their first three games.

OLN LINEUP: Those not on subscribing to the cable package or owning satellite TV can see Phoenix at Dallas this Tuesday and Florida at the NY Rangers next Monday.