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Thu, Dec. 05

NHL deserves dunce cap for TV move

It's a great time of the year for sports fans. Baseball actually matters for the next month or so. Football is back. Basketball is right around the corner. And hockey Š that's right hockey Š is back this Wednesday.

The NHL returns for the first time since the Stanley Cup Finals in the summer of 2004 ­ although much of the country didn't even know it was gone. Surely after alienating what few fans it had with the first lost season of any of the four major sports, the NHL will be bending over backwards to try to win back fans, right?

Well, they may have made one teensy-weensy mistake.

For those of you who might be interested in checking out the full slate of games on opening night, simply turn to the Outdoor Life Network.

That's right, the NHL signed a deal with the Outdoor Life Network, home of events like the Tour de France. A logical home for hockey since the league's old home, ESPN, wasn't willing to match OLN's bid.

You must be wondering, as I did, do I even get the OLN? Answer: Not if you have Cable One.

OOPS!!!

The OLN is a peripheral channel even with carriers that do offer it. A great way for the NHL to expose the casual fan to its new and improved style of play.

I thought Major League Baseball's brass were the ones who didn't have a clue. But for all the scandals (see steroids) and bonehead moves (see cancelled World Series) baseball trudges on. Because for the most part, no matter what the MLB does, a good pennant race and postseason (available on television) will overshadow all of that.

Baseball's advantage is that there are more games on television than anyone can know what to do with. You can't go four channels without finding a baseball game.

So congratulations to the NHL. You now get the dunce cap.

True hockey fans will be left to watch their local team. Considering that only a handful of teams figure to have successful seasons, that leaves a majority of markets left watching teams like the Florida Panthers. You'll just have to wait until the Finals are on NBC in May. Heck, we've been waiting for a year-and-a-half anyway.

So much for a renaissance for hockey. But once again, most of the country will be just fine watching "World Series of Poker" anyway.

The new NHL ad campaign "My NHL" is actually kind of appropriate. Fans who want to follow the league will have to go the extra mile to follow it, making it "My NHL" instead of "Our NHL."

Now if you'll excuse me, I think there's a football game on TV.

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