Hockey is back, blacks should back it
When minority players such as Calgary's Jarome Iginla come to town, the Blues should target them to St. Louis' black audience.

With National Hockey League teams bracing for up to a 50 percent drop in attendance when the first puck is dropped in October, there is a group of potential hockey fans that remains uncultivated by this desperate league.

This would be, of course, African Americans.

The NHL was building momentum with its NHL Diversity program before the yearlong work stoppage, and it continued to function during that time - but without NHL players' involvement.

NHL Diversity provides support to not-for-profit youth hockey organizations across North America "that are committed to offering economically disadvantaged boys and girls of all ages opportunities to play hockey."

There were more than 30 inner-city, volunteer organizations in various stages of development that received support from the National Hockey League. Hopefully, the growth will continue now that players of color will return to the ice soon.

Since its inception, NHL Diversity has exposed more than 30,000 boys and girls, most of them African-American, to hockey.

As for attracting fans, teams should market their minority stars to a minority audience.

The St. Louis Blues are blessed with Bryce Salvador and Jamal Mayers, two players of color. The Blues should make a big deal of that in the black media. When Calgary superstar Jarome Iginla or L.A. Kings playmaker Anson Carter come to town, there should have already been advertising targeted to a black audience.

A few more black fans here and a few more black fans there could make a huge difference on a team's bottom line, especially when the teams will be fighting significant drops in attendance.

If the Blues averaged 14,000 people per game last year, 700 more black fans a game would be a five-percent increase. You help a shaky balance sheet with a 2.5 percent increase by finding a way to put 350 more black people in the soon-not-to-be Savvis Center.

Not counting the Canadian franchises, the teams that begin attracting more black fans first will be the teams that will shake the doldrums of the work stoppage quickest.

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