Thursday, March 09, 2000

Columbus NHL team will play exhibition here

Enquirer contributor

        It didn't take long for the race to host an NHL exhibition game to heat up.

        The expansion Columbus Blue Jackets announced Wednesday they'll play a preseason game against the Florida Panthers in Cincinnati on Sept.29 as they prepare for their inaugural season. The Cincinnati Gar dens, home of the AHL's Mighty Ducks, and the Firstar Center, home of the IHL's Cyclones, are the potential sites for the game.

        Blue Jackets President and General Manager Doug MacLean was at Wednesday's Ducks game against the Syracuse Crunch, and hinted that the Gardens may have the upper hand at this point.

        “If I had to say we were leaning one way or another, I'd probably say we'll play in an AHL building,” said MacLean, whose Blue Jackets' top farm team is Syracuse, an AHL team. “There won't be a lot of determining factors, so we hope to decide by the end of the month.”

        Pete Robinson, president of the Ducks and the Gardens, said he's interested in playing host to the city's first NHL game since Anaheim challenged Nashville on Oct. 2, 1998.

        “Our interest is significant,” said Robinson, whose building drew about 8,000 to that Anaheim-Nashville game. “We have an excellent working relationship with the Blue Jackets. They're very supportive of the Mighty Ducks and the AHL.”

        Blue Jackets publicity personnel have blanketed the Cincinnati market with numerous promotions. Their presence at Cyclones and Ducks games has been a regular occurrence since January.

        The Blue Jackets have also worked to establish a presence during minor-league games involving the Cleveland Lumberjacks and Indianapolis Ice.

        Cyclones and Firstar Center president Doug Kirchhofer, however, said his building is in contention to be host of the Columbus-Florida preseason game.

        “We've had a few conversations with the Blue Jackets' folks, and I feel those conversations were productive,” Kirchhofer said. “They're going to be back in Cincinnati next week and we look forward to talking with them further about it.”


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