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RED FISHER, The Gazette
Published: Saturday, October 21, 2006

On Wednesday, the announced crowd of 14,617 marked the third time in four games the Los Angeles Kings had less than 15,000, a level they had not been below since the 2001-02 season.

In Chicago, only 8,008 showed up at the Blackhawks' cavernous arena to watch the home boys take on the Nashville Predators, and last Monday, the Predators attracted only 9,431 in Long Island. On Wedesday, only 12,579 in Anaheim watched their mighty Ducks.

Games in Washington, Atlanta and St. Louis also have played to a lot of empty seats.

Disturbing? Of course. But nowhere, I imagine, was the buzz greater than in Colorado on Monday, where the Avalanche's astonishing streak of 487 consecutive sellouts came to an end. It was the first time the Avalanche played to empty seats since Nov. 1, 1995.

Colorado will enjoy more sellouts, particularly after victories in their first two road games. The streak, reported Denver Post staff writer Terry Frei, "began in the Avalanche's eighth regular-season home game, just after the franchise was moved from Quebec to Denver, when a crowd of 16,061 watched Colorado tie the Dallas Stars 1-1 in McNichols Sports Arena on Nov. 9, 1995."

Avalanche captain Joe Sakic told Frei: "Every streak's got to end, I guess, but it was pretty full in there. We've got the best fans in the league, and we'll sell out quite a bit more."

A statement from Colorado president Pierre Lacroix pointed this out: "The streak is a tribute to our fans and to the work of our staff, and is symbolic of the strength and evolution of this tremendous hockey market. There's no doubt that Avalanche fans are the greatest in all of professional sports, and this streak has proven that."

Canadiens and Toronto fans surely would argue the point that Avalanche fans "are the greatest in all of professional sports," but the streak was a stunning statement of what winning means to fans. The Avalanche, with two Stanley Cups and nine consecutive division championships, have been the class of the NHL for a long time. They may be facing lean times in terms of winning after losing so many players, but they'll sell out again ... and often.

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