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All-Star Classic to reach 100M homes

WEEKLY RELEASE #14

The 2004 Pepsi AHL All-Star Classic, now just four weeks away, will be televised coast to coast to 100 million households on no fewer than 19 regional television partners in the United States and Canada.

The top players in the American Hockey League head to Grand Rapids, Mich., for this year’s annual showcase at Van Andel Arena. The event begins on Sun., Feb. 8, with the AHL All-Star Skills Competition, and concludes with the 2004 AHL All-Star Game on Mon., Feb. 9. Both events will begin at 7:00 p.m. ET.

Peter Loubardias and former AHL forward John Druce, the broadcast team for Rogers Sportsnet’s AHL coverage, will call the action both nights, and they will be joined by Grand Rapids Griffins play-by-play voice Bob Kaser.

The 2004 Pepsi AHL All-Star Classic will reach audiences across Canada and in most major U.S. markets. Rogers Sportsnet, which is seen in eight million homes across Canada, will air the Skills Competition on a delayed broadcast prior to its live national coverage of the All-Star Game on Monday night. Fox Sports Net will carry the All-Star Classic on its New York, New England, Pittsburgh, Ohio, Chicago, North, Midwest, South, Southwest, Rocky Mountain and Bay Area regional networks. Also televising the event in the U.S. will be Comcast SportsNet Philadelphia and Comcast SportsNet Mid-Atlantic; Comcast’s CN8 network; Empire Sports Network in central and western New York; and America One, which reaches 20 million households on 70 broadcast affiliate stations across the U.S.

Digital and satellite customers in the States will be able to watch the All-Star Classic on the NHL Center Ice subscription service and Fox Sports Digital Nets.

STARS ON THE MOVE … Since the rosters for the 2004 Pepsi AHL All-Star Classic were announced last week, eight All-Stars were recalled to the NHL. Norfolk defenseman Anton Babchuk and St. John’s forward Kyle Wellwood made their NHL debuts with Chicago and Toronto, respectively, while Cincinnati’s Tony Martensson, Manitoba’s Brandon Reid, Syracuse’s Aaron Johnson, Houston’s Kyle Wanvig, Binghamton’s Josh Langfeld and Philadelphia’s Dennis Seidenberg have also been summoned by their parent teams.

AHL GRAD SETS SHUTOUT RECORD … Phoenix Coyotes goaltender Brian Boucher, an AHL All-Star in 1998 and a member of Philadelphia’s Calder Cup championship team later that season, set a modern-day NHL record by shutting out the opposition for a span of 332:01 over seven games. The streak was ended on Sunday by Atlanta’s Randy Robitaille, an AHL All-Star, league MVP and Calder Cup champion in 1998-99.

GOLDEN BOYS … The United States captured its first ever World Junior Championship gold medal with a 4-3 win over Canada last Monday in Helsinki. Mike Eaves, who coached the AHL’s Hershey Bears from 1990-93, was behind the USA bench for the historic victory, while Ryan Kesler, who has skated in 23 AHL games with Manitoba this season, scored the tying goal during the third-period comeback against Canada.

Providence goaltender Hannu Toivonen was 4-1-1 with a 1.85 goals against average to help host Finland to a bronze medal. Grand Rapids forward Jiri Hudler tied for the team lead with five points and Norfolk defenseman Michal Barinka chipped in a goal and an assist as the Czech Republic finished fourth.

TEXAS TWO-STEPS … With temperatures dipping below zero Fahrenheit in New England last week, Hartford and Worcester picked a good time to head to Texas for a couple of days. On Thursday, the two New England clubs met former teammates in goal: Hartford escaped with a 1-0 overtime win over Johan Holmqvist and the Aeros, while Travis Scott and the Rampage got the better of Worcester in a 3-2 OT victory. After a quick do-si-do across Interstate 10, the teams switched partners, with the Wolf Pack skating to a 2-2 tie in San Antonio and the IceCats battling Houston to a scoreless draw on Friday.

OFF THE ICE … Future Baseball Hall of Famer and new Houston Astros pitcher Roger Clemens is scheduled to drop the first puck prior to Friday night’s Aeros game against San Antonio at the Toyota Center… NASCAR driver Tony Stewart will drop the first puck on Saturday prior to the Cincinnati-Milwaukee game at Cincinnati Gardens… On We Love the 80’s Night at Van Andel Arena this Saturday, the first 1,500 fans will receive a special-edition Grand Rapids Griffins Rubik’s Cube.

ETC. … Of the 11 games played in the AHL on Friday night, eight were decided by one goal (including four in overtime) and the other three ended tied… Saturday’s crowd of 11,828 at Chicago’s Allstate Arena was the second-largest in the league this season… Hershey forward Steve Brule is one point shy of becoming the 67th member of the AHL’s 500-point club; Albany’s Craig Darby is also closing in with 493 career points… Cincinnati rookie Chris Kunitz has 10 points in his last five games… Wilkes-Barre/Scranton goaltender Martin Brochu was inducted into the Portland Pirates’ Hall of Fame when the Penguins visited the Cumberland County Civic Center on Saturday night, and made 29 saves in a 2-1 victory over his former team… Travis Roche was stopped by Reinhard Divis on a penalty shot with eight seconds left in overtime of Houston’s 0-0 tie with Worcester on Friday; AHL goaltenders are now 10-for-16 on penalty shot attempts this season… After scoring two goals in his first 17 games, St. John’s forward Nathan Barrett scored five times in four games last week… The Aeros are winless in their last eight games (0-1-6-1), but have just two regulation losses (9-2-6-1) in their last 18… Bryson Busniuk, nephew of Binghamton assistant coach Mike Busniuk, made his AHL debut with the Senators on Friday night against Albany… Harold Hersh, who played in 226 AHL games from 1995-2001, is a contestant on the new season of ABC-TV’s reality show The Bachelorette, to begin this Wednesday… AHL All-Star goaltender Wade Dubielewicz of Bridgeport will chat live on theahl.com, Wed., Jan. 14 at 2:00 p.m. ET.