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JAZZ’S ROOMMATES ARE PUTTING ON QUITE A SHOW

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WAIT A minute, everybody. NOT . . . SO . . . FAST. Come back here. The Delta Center is still hopping, and we're not talking tractor pulls and ice capades here.

The Jazz (R.I.P.) are gone, but their roommates aren't. The Delta Center's other tenant, the Grizzlies - the town's first-year hockey team - are still in business, and then some.The Grizzlies are one victory away from winning a championship, and when's the last time you saw one of those around here? Thursday night's 4-2 win over the Orlando Solar Bears gives the Grizz a 3-0 series lead in the Turner Cup finals heading into Saturday's potential season-finale/victory party in the Delta Center.

Finally, here's your chance to witness a championship, to try one on for size, to see what it feels like. Sure, you feel a little out of place, a little embarrassed to be showing up now, like a fair-weather friend.

You don't want to jump on the bandwagon in June. It's tacky. It's like asking the class nerd to the prom the day after he/she inherits a fortune.

To make matters worse, you don't know the first thing about hockey. When someone gets penalized for hooking, you think they're talking about Heidi Fleiss. You think bad checking is what Joe Waldholtz did. Icing is frosting, right? A slap shot? What Zsa Zsa gave the cop.

But you won't be alone. Friday's game drew 8,978 fans, which means maybe 2,000 of them were the bandwagon variety. You could tell who the new people were. They were the ones asking all the questions. They still don't understand the offsides penalty. They show up at the Delta Center without a trout.

The Grizzlies don't care. They're hoping you show up on Saturday. They're counting on it. Better late than never. "We'll have a big crowd," said owner David Elmore. "We can win the championship, and everyone likes to take part in something like that."

And they'll leave the light on for ya.

Elmore and his team have been waiting - "hoping" is probably not the tactful word here - for the Jazz to drop out of the playoffs, so they didn't have to play their games in front of empty seats while everyone is watching the Jazz on TV.

For several weeks they've been marching through the playoffs, and no one knew it. Then the Jazz lost. Thursday's game, the first since the Jazz lost Game 7 to the Sonics, drew the biggest crowd of the playoffs.

No one was surprised. After the Orlando Magic dropped out of the NBA playoffs, the Solar Bears' attendance for Game 2 soared to 15,000.

Hockey games are a different experience for the average basketball fan. Perhaps a few tips and observations are in order to prepare you for your first hockey game:

- After every score by the hometown team, the fans pelt the ice with what appears to be trout, but you know that's just silly. There's a simple explanation for this: They ARE trout. It's a new catch and release program. Sadly, most of the fish look like keepers.

- The hockey crowd is less, shall we say, inhibited, compared to the basketball crowd. The JumboTron video camera scanned the crowd during Thursday's game and got an obscene gesture from one fan and the beginnings of a moon job from another.

- Dress is casual. Suits and dresses are out. This is a T-shirt crowd. Hockey shirts are preferable, but optional. Swimsuits are optional, too. There's a rink-side hot tub. This is to meet the needs of the many people who like to soak in a tub in front of 9,000 strangers while watching a professional hockey game. You probably know someone like this.

- Hockey games are physical. More physical than an NBA game, although not by much. There's almost as much pushing here as you'll find on a Saturday at the Albertson's checkout stand. But actually fistfights are preferable. Wrestling works, too, which explains the commercial. One of the ads on the JumboTron featured a father and his young son talking very sincerely about . . . the WWF. It was a tender, close moment of watching men in briefs and face paint pummel the snot out of each other on TV.

- You get two halftimes for the price of one. They call them intermissions. You get one at the end of the first period and one at the end of the second period. Some fans think there's a third intermission, too, the one that starts after the third period and ends a day or two later with the start of the first period of the next game. None of the halftimes includes dancing girls, but there is limbo dancing and gurney racing.

- Hockey-impaired fans should know one name if they want to sound somewhat intelligent in a hockey crowd: Tommy Salo. He's the Grizzlies' human vacuum cleaner in goal. He stopped 30 of 32 shots on Thursday. He's the MVP of the series, hands down. If not for him, the Grizzlies are on vacation.

And then what would you do with the pocketful of trout?