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Bettman: Too Soon to Gauge Crowds

Times Staff Writer

NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman said Monday that it was too early to be concerned about attendance around the league, which seems to be lagging significantly in some markets.

The Kings announced a five-year low in attendance on Thursday. The same night, the Chicago Blackhawks announced a crowd of 8,008. On Monday, the Colorado Avalanche had its sellout streak of 487 consecutive games come to an end and the New York Islanders announced a crowd of 9,431. The Ducks, considered a Stanley Cup contender, announced a crowd of 12,579 on Wednesday, and crowds in Washington, Atlanta and St. Louis have also been down.

“It’s a couple weeks into the season and any speculation would be premature,” Bettman said at the Kings’ game against the Detroit Red Wings that had an announced crowd of 17,417, the smallest to see the Red Wings play at Staples Center.

Bettman said that the Kings’ situation -- they had consecutive crowds of less than 15,000 last week for the first time since the 2001-02 season -- was caused by the “schedule being a little different. It’s a little premature two to three weeks into the season to be writing attendance stories.”

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Actually, the Kings had nine October home games to open the 2005-06 season and have eight this October. A year ago, they had only one crowd below 17,000 in those nine games, which included five capacity crowds. The Kings have eight home games this October and have had only one capacity crowd.

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The Kings’ Derek Armstrong was fined $2,500 for cross-checking the Dallas Stars’ Stephane Robidas in the head with his stick during Saturday’s game.

“It was an accident,” Armstrong said. “I went to hit him and he moved his shoulder. You never want to get anybody in the head. I felt bad about that.”

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Mike O’Connell, former general manager of the Boston Bruins who was hired by the Kings as director of pro scouting, had the biggest save of the year in September, when scout Frank Effinger of the New York Rangers had a seizure and collapsed during an exhibition in Atlanta.

O’Connell, sitting a few seats away, rushed over and administered CPR until emergency personnel arrived, and was credited with saving Effinger’s life.

chris.foster@latimes.com

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