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More promising 2011 NHL All-Star Game numbers: event a big hit with sponsors, retailers

As we mentioned yesterday, the 2011 NHL All-Star Game was a big ratings success in both Canada and the United States.

It wasn’t just a success from a ratings standpoint, though. The NHL announced that it drew nice improvements in various other financial categories as well.

For one thing, the league reports that corporate sponsor support went up 42 percent compared to the last event that took place in the United States (the 2008 edition in Atlanta). It was also up 12 percent compared to the 2009 event in Montreal. You could see the power of the league’s sponsors in the well-played move to give Phil Kessel a Honda to soothe the pain that came from being “Mr. Irrelevant” in the Fantasy Draft.

Retailers were pleased to boot, as the league announced that it saw an increase in sales for U.S.-based games, with a 20 percent jump from Atlanta’s event.

The game was also popular online. saw a record in videos played among other marks:

This year’s NHL All-Star Game showed double- and triple-digit percentage increases in key metrics over the 2009 event and set an all-time record for video starts on Sunday, the day of the NHL All-Star Game.

Sunday video starts shattered the month-old record by 26 percent and was 192 percent higher than the season average. Sunday’s video starts represented a 302-percent increase over the 2009 NHL All-Star Game.

Unique visitors for NHL All-Star Weekend were up 67 percent over 2009 and unique visitors for Sunday’s NHL All-Star Game presented by Discover were up 61 percent over 2009.

So, again, by just about any measure the 2011 all-star contest was a huge success. Let’s see if they can top it next year.

Raffl coverts PTO into one-year, $575K deal with Jets

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There’s another Raffl in the NHL.

On Tuesday, the Jets announced that Thomas Raffl — the older brother of Flyers forward Michael Raffl — has signed a one-year, one-way deal worth $575,000.

Raffl, 29, was in Winnipeg’s camp on a PTO after a lengthy career in Europe. He spent time playing in Sweden and his native Austria, most recently with powerhouse EC Red Bull Salzburg — last year, Raffl scored 53 points in 52 games for Salzburg and three in seven games for Austria while serving as team captain at the World Hockey Championships.

“We would like to recognize and express our appreciation to the EC Red Bull Salzburg organization for allowing Thomas and the Winnipeg Jets this opportunity,” Jets GM Kevin Cheveldayoff said in a statement.

With the Jets, Raffl projects to play in the bottom-six forward group, where he can utilize his 6-foot-4, 215-pound frame in a checking-slash-energy role.

For now, though, he’ll start out with the club’s AHL affiliate in Manitoba.

Flyers to start season with seven d-men; MacDonald sent to AHL

Andrew MacDonald, Matt Calvert
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Seven defensemen will comprise the Philadelphia Flyers’ opening-day roster, which the club finalized today.

Those seven are Radko Gudas, Michael Del Zotto, Luke Schenn, Nick Schultz, Brandon Manning, Mark Streit, and Evgeny Medvedev.

Not on the list? Andrew MacDonald, who has cleared waivers and been assigned to AHL Lehigh Valley. (That move allowed the Flyers to keep both Manning and youngster Scott Laughton.)

Also not on the list were prospects Shayne Gostisbehere, Robert Hagg, Sam Morin, Ivan Provorov and Travis Sanheim. The first three will start the season in the AHL. The last two have been sent back to junior.

But the opening-day roster is not where this story ends. How the Flyers’ defensive mix changes as the season progresses will be worth watching.

They’d no doubt love to move Schenn, a pending unrestricted free agent with a $3.6 million cap hit. He could also end up in the AHL, a la MacDonald.

Medvedev, the 33-year-old who came over from the KHL and put up five points in five preseason games, is another pending UFA. The club could either look to re-sign or flip him.

Might 37-year-old Streit be a chip worth cashing in at the deadline, especially if the Flyers aren’t in a playoff position on Feb. 29? He’s only got two years left on his contract.

Meanwhile, GM Ron Hextall will be watching pending restricted free agents Manning and Gudas closely. Are they part of the future?

So, lots of decisions to make in Philly as the blue line continues its much-needed transition.