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Penguins Notebook: Tickets selling at 'OK' pace

Thursday, October 09, 2003

By Dave Molinari, Post-Gazette Sports Writer

While Penguins officials aren't offering any details, they seem reasonably satisfied with season-ticket sales to date.

Sort of.

Kinda.

"We're tracking OK," team president Ken Sawyer said yesterday. "In the sense that our team has been out of the playoffs for two [consecutive] years and the economy's lousy."

Last season, the Penguins said they sold the equivalent of about 8,100 full season tickets. Sawyer declined to provide precise sales figures for 2003-04, adding team officials are not focused strictly on sales leading up to the regular-season opener against Los Angeles tomorrow night.

"What we'll measure is where do we end up, compared to where we ended up last year," he said.

Sawyer also said that, as a matter of policy this season, the Penguins are "not going to put in the paper that there's 2,000 or 3,000" seats available for a given game, that "we'll only mention [ticket sales] if it's a sellout or near a sellout."

Whether the home opener will be one of those isn't clear.

"It won't shock me if it's a sellout," Sawyer said. "I expect it will be a real good-sized crowd."

He made it clear, though, that standing-room crowds aren't likely to be the norm early in the season.

"Without a doubt, we'll have some soft games in the fall," he said.

Still, he said, "by the end of the year, I think we'll be where we want to be, given the environment."

McKenna cleared

Left winger Steve McKenna, badly cut above the right eye when coach Eddie Olczyk inadvertently shot a puck into the players bench while launching a drill last Thursday, has medical clearance to resume practicing today and said he expects to be able to play next week.

McKenna bled heavily after the puck struck him, and he acknowledged yesterday that there was a time when he feared his vision had been damaged.

"The cut and the black eye, I can deal with," he said. "But I opened my eye just as I got to the door [leading off the ice], and it was kind of blurry up here. I could see down. That was my biggest concern."

While the puck gave McKenna a nasty gash and black eye, it didn't harm his sense of humor. Witness his response when asked how he planned to retaliate against the guy who hurt him.

"Hopefully, the revenge is him watching me play," McKenna said.

He went on to express understanding for the on-ice limitations of Olczyk, a reliable 30-goal man in his prime.

"You have to teach these finesse guys how to dump the puck," McKenna said. "They think you just do it. There's an art to it. We fourth-line guys have it down to an art."

Fuhr gets tribute

Edmonton will retire the sweater of goalie Grant Fuhr tonight. Two Penguins -- one a longtime adversary, the other an former teammate -- remember him as one of the greatest goalies in recent NHL history.

"To win five [Stanley] Cups, you have to be a clutch goalie down the stretch, and that's the way he was," center Mario Lemieux said. "He didn't have a particular style, but he was very quick and just a great winner."

Left winger Kelly Buchberger was on some of the Oilers' championship clubs with Fuhr and credits him with much of the success that team had.

"I think there's no question Grant is one of the best goalies to ever play the game," Buchberger said. "For the [wide-open] style Edmonton played in the past, there weren't too many goalies who could have hung in there, night in and night out, and played the same.

"If there was a loss, he always took the blame and said he should have had that goal or this goal. He was totally a team player from day one. ... He was a total professional. He really, really wanted to win every game he played. If it wasn't for him in the late '80s, there's no way they would have won those Stanley Cups."

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