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Grizzlies brass not worried about vying with Jazz

Hockey is hockey and basketball is basketball, according to the Utah Grizzlies and Utah Jazz, who will compete for Wasatch front sports dollars on at least 13 nights this season.

With the completion of West Valley City's E Center, the International Hockey League franchise has moved away from the Delta Center and its anchor tenant from the National Basketball Association. The separation, though amicable on both sides, has led to conflict - starting tonight.While the Grizzlies are unveiling their new den in a regular season game with Las Vegas, the Jazz are taking the court for the first time since the NBA Finals in a preseason tilt with Charlotte. The conflict was not intentional, say the Jazz, since NBA exhibition dates are scheduled a year in advance.

"You've got 1.2 million people from Ogden to Provo, and if they've got 20,000 and I've got 10,000, that still leaves a lot of people wandering the valley," said Grizzlies chief operating officer Tim Mouser. "If it was their opening night and our opening night, I'd be concerned about it."

Interestingly, when the Jazz open their regular-season home slate Nov. 1 against Denver, the Grizz will be entertaining Milwaukee.

Not to worry, says Jazz marketing vice president Jay Francis, because its like comparing apples to oranges.

"When Larry H. Miller owned the Salt Lake Golden Eagles, we did some hockey-fan-based research," said Francis. "We discovered that hockey fans weren't all that interested in Jazz games."

Besides, insist both men, Salt Lake City has grown enough to justify two professional sports venues hosting events the same night.

"Salt Lake is learning what a lot of other cities have known for years," said Mouser. "And that is that everybody can make it."

The Grizzlies boss, however, does admit his minor league franchise is a bit concerned about media coverage when going toe-to-toe with the Jazz.

Selling tickets, however, is another story. Mouser said fans have two distinct options - the NBA experience or what he calls the affordability and excitement of the IHL. The hockey franchise has gone so far as to run advertisements in Salt Lake area newspapers backing its claim. The ad features a man waering a suit sitting alone in an arena with the words "sixty dollars-basketball" above it. Underneath it is "sixty dollars-hockey" and the same man in more casual attire with his wife and two children. Each is wearing and holding Grizzly merchandise. The ad asks: "How do you tell your family they can't come?"

Francis declined to comment on how the Grizzlies are marketing their product, but he thinks the crossover in fans isn't that great.

"We don't look at them as competing for the same marketing dollar," he said. "There's no sense of competition."

Francis said the fan-base difference may be as varied as the NBA and IHL.

"It they are playing Michael and Chicago," said Mouser, "I give."

Unfortunately for the Grizzlies, Mr. Jordan and company visit Salt Lake City Feb. 4 - the same night Utah skates against Las Vegas. Odds are every media camera in the state will be on hand for the NBA Finals rematch.

Other conflicts include Jazz home games against 1996-97 playoff teams Orlando (Jan. 17), New York (Feb. 18) and the Los Angeles Lakers (March 28), not to mention visits by projected postseason contenders Cleveland (Jan. 12) and San Antonio (April 8).

The IHL apparently isn't all that concerned. The league's schedule was drafted long after the NBA's was released.

Apparently, hockey is hockey and basketball is basketball. And so, too, are their fans.



Home game conflicts between the IHL's Utah Grizzlies (E Center) and NBA's

Utah Jazz (Delta Center) during the 1997-98 sports season.

1. Saturday, Oct 11: Las Vegas at Grizzlies; Charlotte at Jazz.

2. Saturday, Nov. 1: Milwaukee at Grizzlies; Denver at Jazz.

3. Wednesday, Dec. 3: Milwaukee at Grizzlies; Toronto at Jazz.

4. Monday, Jan. 12: Las Vegas at Grizzlies; Cleveland at Jazz.

5. Saturday, Jan. 17: Manitoba at Grizzlies; Orlando at Jazz.

6. Friday, Jan. 30: Fort Wayne at Grizzlies; Dallas at Jazz.

7. Wednesday, Feb. 4: Las Vegas at Grizzlies; Chicago at Jazz.

8. Wednesday, Feb. 18: Houston at Grizzlies; New York at Jazz.

9. Wednesday, March 11: Houston at Grizzlies; Sacramento at Jazz.

10. Friday, March 13: San Antonio at Grizzlies; Vancouver at Jazz.

11. Saturday, March 28: Michigan at Grizzles; Los Angeles Lakers at Jazz.

12. Friday, April 3: Long Beach at Grizzlies; Denver at Jazz.

13. Wednesday, April 8: Long Beach at Grizzlies; San Antonio at Jazz.

Normal start times: Jazz, 7 p.m.; Grizzlies, 7:05 p.m.