NHL NOTEBOOK News and notes

Penguins lower ticket prices: With hockey back, the Pittsburgh Penguins announced lower ticket prices for the 2005-2006 season, prices that were to have gone into effect last year before the season was canceled due to the lockout. "We are very appreciative that our loyal fans have been so patient during this time and we believe we'll be able to reward them by putting a very competitive team on ice. We'll be able to offer better value at a lower price," said team president Ken Sawyer. The average cost of a season ticket will drop 11 percent. Some full-season ticket prices that cost $65 a game will be reduced to $60 along the sides and $50 for seats behind the net. More than 8,700 seats will be available for $30 or under, including more than 2,000 at $15. "The goal was to make Penguins hockey more affordable for our fans and to create exciting new seating and ticketing options," Sawyer said. The Penguins also plan to reduce gate prices.
Gretzky may coach: The Phoenix Coyotes expect a decision soon from Wayne Gretzky on whether he will coach the team in the upcoming season. The NHL's all-time leading scorer and nine-time MVP -- and managing partner of the Phoenix franchise -- has said he would wait until a new collective bargaining agreement was in place before deciding whether to take on the coaching job. "I spoke with Wayne last night," said Coyotes general manager Mike Barnett, a longtime friend of Gretzky. "There's obviously speculation that he will step in and be our head coach. I know he's still very interested in the position." But Barnett said Gretzky and his family still must "make the final decision as to whether they're prepared to leave the life they have now, and their residence in Los Angeles, to come here,"
Fans wary: Andrew Simone thinks the NHL and the players' union forgot one important thing -- the fans -- when reaching a tentative agreement to end a yearlong lockout. "Both sides were wrong, and they didn't have the goodwill built up that baseball has, and from what I understand, they're not going to be lowering ticket prices," the employee of a Denver sporting goods store said Wednesday after the deal was announced. "If someone gives me free tickets I'll go, but I'm not paying." Reaction to the end of the lockout among fans was muted. Some said they were happy to have the game back, while others -- such as Simone -- still had plenty of resentment built up from the prolonged stalemate. "In a place like Minnesota, hockey means a lot," said Peter Ceruzzi, general manager of Tom Reid's Hockey City Pub in St. Paul, Minn. "But in the South, I think people have found other uses for the entertainment dollar they once saved for hockey." Even in stalwart hockey cities like Philadelphia, not all the fans were clamoring for the sport's return. "I've got to admit, I didn't miss it," said Joe Hartman, a Philadelphia insurance adjuster and former collegiate hockey player.
Associated Press

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