Bettman said the two-day event will be held June 26-27, 2004, atthe 18,730-seat Entertainment and Sports Arena and is expected topump about $8 million into the area's economy.
Bettman also promised the Hurricanes would host an All-Star gameby 2006, but refused to give a specific date or year.
"There is an old saying, `What a difference a year makes,"'Bettman said. "I was here a year ago and that initiated a drive tofurther ingrain the support for this franchise in the Triangle. Thecommunity's response has been nothing sport of phenomenal.
"This market, the fan support, this building and this team arecoming together in ways that I supposed only (owner) Pete Karmanosand I may have envisioned five years ago," Bettman said. "It isextremely gratifying."
The franchise moved from Hartford, Conn., to North Carolina inthe summer of 1997, and after four seasons of sluggish ticketsales, the Southeast Division-leading Hurricanes are averaging15,156 this year, including 12 sellouts.
The attendance is a 14 percent increase over 2000-2001.
"It is important for a lot of the other hockey communities tounderstand that this is a viable market and there are some realgood hockey fans here," Karmanos said. "The draft helps all ofthat."
This summer's hockey draft will be held in Toronto, then inNashville, Tenn., in 2003, before coming to North Carolina.
Next year's All-Star game will be in Florida, with the 2004 and2005 games yet to be announced by the NHL.
Bettman said the league is still reviewing the Triangle's plansto build more hotels and upgrade and expand Raleigh's conventioncenter before making an announcement on the All-Star game's futurehere.
"We're coming and we're planning on coming in the time frame Ipromised, so that's not an issue," Bettman said.
While fans are excited about the draft, some are having an icy reaction to another annoucement made by the Carolina Hurricanes. The team plans to
raise ticket prices
for the 2002-03 season by as much as 60 percent.
The cheapest seats will remain at $12, but seats in the lower bowl area will increase an average of $10. Team officials said their prices are still well below the league's average. They said they have to hike prices to stay competitive, and survive.
The team will not release financial information from this season, but its owner said the it lost $15 million two years ago.
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