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THE INSIDE TRACK | MORNING BRIEFING

Next Time They Might Consider the Grand Ole Opry

September 15, 1998|HELENE ELLIOTT

The Nashville Predators, the NHL's latest expansion team, opened training camp Sunday and were resoundingly ignored.

Fewer than 100 people were at the 17,250-seat Nashville Arena for the start of a well-advertised open practice. The crowd did grow during the session--to about 200 fans.

Of course, timing might have had a lot to do with it. The NFL's Tennessee Oilers--not to be confused with the Edmonton Oilers, and evidently folks in Nashville knew the difference--played their home opener across town at Vanderbilt University and sold out 41,600 seats.

Despite the weak public response and season ticket sales that barely met the 12,000 minimum set by the NHL to keep the franchise, Predator officials aren't discouraged.

"All year long we've been working to put together our team both on and off the ice,"' said David Poile, the team's general manager. "We all have dreams and fantasies of how this is going to turn out. Some of us have different timetables of when this is going to turn out. It's exciting to be a part of it. I guess the dream starts today."

As long as it doesn't turn out to be a nightmare.

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Trivia time: The Detroit Red Wings have won the Stanley Cup the last two seasons. Which is the last team to have won the Cup three consecutive seasons?

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Not-so-wild Cats: It's back to the bad old days at Northwestern.

The team that made a Cinderella-like run to the Rose Bowl in January 1996 and to the Citrus Bowl a year later has become a pumpkin once again. The Wildcats were booed off the field at halftime of their 44-10 home loss to Duke on Saturday, and the stands were nearly empty by game's end.

"Well, Northwestern's football team still owns the yearly award for the highest graduation rate in the nation, the one Duke held to its chest like a favorite textbook the previous five years," Rick Morrissey wrote in the Chicago Tribune. "The problem is that when the two schools met on the field Saturday, the Blue Devils looked like football players and the Wildcats looked like nutty professors."

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Politically incorrect: Denver Bronco fans are sensitive to the problems faced by President Clinton after the release last week of Ken Starr's report about the Monica Lewinsky matter. One fan offered a solution, hanging a banner at Mile High Stadium that read, "Elway for President. A True Leader."

And Denver Post columnist Woody Paige put things into perspective for his readers: "We interrupt another reporting of the Starr report with a much more consequential story: John Elway hurt his hamstring Sunday afternoon."

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Trivia answer: The New York Islanders, who won the Cup four consecutive seasons, from 1979-80 through 1982-83.

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And finally: Bob Friend Sr., the former Pittsburgh Pirate pitcher, doesn't play much golf anymore with his son, Bob Jr. The younger Friend has recently cracked the PGA Tour and has three top-10 tour finishes this year.

"He's out of my league," Friend Sr. told the Toronto Globe and Mail. "He tells me, 'I don't want to look at that lousy swing.' I don't want to put him in a slump."

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