Ralph Nader's sports consumer organization said yesterday the average ticket price in the National Hockey League is $7.87, which the group said, is "perhap the most difficult to justify of all the major sports."

In a letter to NHL Commissioner John Ziegler, Peter Gruenstein, executive director of Fight to Advance the Nation's Sports (FANS), urged team to hold down ticket prices.

"NHL owners must understand that the fans' loyalty is reciprocal, their patronage is conditional and their money is not inexhaustible," said Gruenstein, who added that the NHL ticket prices are 16 percent above the $6.76 per ticket average of the National Basketball Association.

Gruenstein said the NHL teams play almost six times as many regular season games of players, but the ticket prices are less than $2 below the NFL average of $9.67.

"The fact that the NHL teams receive less broadcast revenue than NFL teams does not explain the small difference in ticket prices between the two leagues, especially condsidering that the NHL teams play many more playoff games and receive significant revenue from international play," said Gruenstein.

FANS did a similar study of NFL ticket prices last fall but some conclusions were in error because the organization used figures from the previous year.

FANS found that the highest-priced ticket in the NHL is sold by Montreal. The Canadiens also have the highest average price, $11. The Cleveland Barons offer the lowest top ticket, $8.50, and the Atlanta Flames have the lowest average price, $6.

According to FANS, each NHL team's average ticket price (with the top ticket price in parentheses), is:

Montreal Canadiens $11 ($15); New York Islanders $9 (11); St. Louis $8.88 ($12); Philadelphia Flyers $8.70 ($11.50); Chicago Black Hawks $8.50 ($12.50); Toronto Maple LEeafs $8.50 ($13.50); New York Rangers $8.10 ($12); Detroit Red Wings $7.90 ($10); Los Angeles Kings $7.69 ($10); Vancouver Canucks $7.67 ($10); Buffalo Sabre $7.25 ($1); Pittsbirgh Penguins $720 ($9.50); Boston Bruins $7.17 ($11); Wshington Capitals $7.17 ($9.50); Olorado Rockies 7.15 ($8.80); Minnesota North Stars $7.13 ($9); Cleveland Barons $6.67 ($8.50), and Atlanta Flames $6 ($9).