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NHL Talking with Four Cable Outlets

The National Hockey League is talking to four parties interested in the cable TV telecast rights--ESPN, Comcast, Turner and Viacom's Spike TV, according to sources familiar with the discussions. ESPN exercised its option to drop the final year of its rights following the end of this past canceled NHL season. ESPN was paying $70 million per season for the rights. With the expected ratification of the new players' collective bargaining agreement this week, the next season is on schedule, and now the cable rights talks have heated up. Sources close to the talks said they are just in the preliminary stages and there is no deadline for reaching a new TV rights agreement. The NHL has a deal already in place for next season for the broadcast TV rights with NBC, but that is a revenue/expense share deal, in which the NHL does not just get rights money.

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Spread the Hockey Gospel

from Terry Frei of ESPN

, In April, while on a book-promotion trip made possible because Gary Bettman and Bob Goodenow had twiddled their thumbs and thumbed their noses at NHL fans, I detoured from media and bookstore appearances to speak to a fifth- and sixth-grade class at Blessed Sacrament School in Madison, Wis. When Father Pat Norris opened the floor to questions, they came in quick succession. And were they about books or writing? Nope. First question: "When's the NHL coming back?" And then, all from different kids: "Do you know Joe Sakic?" "Peter Forsberg?" "Steve Yzerman?" Yes, the Wisconsin Badgers' home arena was within walking distance, and the sport always has been almost as big a deal in Madison as Plaza Burgers and State Street Brats, but I still was surprised. It turned out that more than one of the students was a rink rat, and the hockey interest in the class largely crossed all the aisles. Interestingly, though, these kids were within driving distance of Chicago, but because they had limited opportunities to see the Blackhawks on television, they weren't asking about Jocelyn Thibault.

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Leafs Lunch

Bill Watters said Colin Campbell wants a slight change to some of the rules while Bettman wants significant changes to the rules and how the game is played. Please Gary, don't turn this game into a circus!!! Plus, don't say well if it doesn't work, we can always change it back; this upcoming year is critical in the fans eyes, especially those who may be watching for the first time.

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Goodenow Knocked Out

from The Hockey News,

The careers of famous fighters rarely end gracefully. Whether it’s Mike Tyson, Sugar Ray Leonard, Riddick Bowe or Kathie Lee Gifford, the story almost always ends the same: an underestimated opponent, an overblown sense of self, and a close-up view of the canvas. The man who once was arguably the NHL’s most prodigious punchers now knows the feeling. His name is Bob Goodenow, his job is NHLPA leader – and after the players’ loud-and-clear “no mas” put an end to the lockout, he ought to start packing his parachute. Because after so many years of unstoppable pushing, Goodenow has been shoved back hard, and is all but fated to fade ¬into “bolivion”, as Tyson so aptly put it. A decade ago, boxing’s “eye of the tiger” had its legal equal in Goodenow, who used to be the NHLPA’s Luke Skywalker to Alan Eagleson’s Darth Vader. Goodenow didn’t nibble at and blow in owners’ ears, as Eagleson became infamous for. He bit ‘em off like Tyson did, spit ‘em out, used ‘em as hacky sacks, strung ‘em together and wore ‘em as a necklace. He wanted reparations for the NHL’s owner-on-player crimes of the past, as repellent as they were legion, and he got them.

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The Bottom Line

from USA TODAY,

Commissioner Gary Bettman had warned NHL teams for years to plan their budgets to stay in line with the league's desire to gain "cost certainty." Now that the NHL has accomplished that with a tentative collective bargaining agreement that limits player compensation to 54% of revenue, teams will have to do some adding and subtracting. Details of the deal have been shared with team officials and full disclosure won't come until after ratification votes, but people familiar with the talks say the top payroll limit is $39 million in 2005-06 and the minimum is $21.5 million. It includes a 24% rollback in existing contracts and qualifying offers. The average payroll was $44 million in 2003-04. A USA TODAY analysis of 2005-06 salaries shows:

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REL (Russian Elite League) Threat to NHL

from TSN,

NHL agent Mark Gandler says he expects a number of players to sign with teams in the Russian Elite League this season. Gandler, who represents a number of Russian-born clients, says a combination of the new collective bargaining agreement and improved financial picture of top Russian teams could have players thinking twice about playing in the NHL. "There's no question this is the biggest threat from outside the NHL has ever had," Gandler tells the Palm Beach Post.

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It’s a Lock

Could this be true?

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More on Spike TV

via the Star-Telegram,

Could Spike TV, the home of Ultimate Fighting Championship, become the next cable home of the NHL? "We've had conversations with the NHL, and we're taking a wait-and-see approach," said Kevin Kay, Spike's executive vice president of programming and production. "I don't think we're in the business of paying huge license fees for sports rights, so we would be really interested in a kind of revenue-sharing deal." That's the type of deal the NHL made with NBC, but the league refused a similar opportunity with ESPN after the network opted out of its contract to televise games next season. Stars president Jim Lites has said he would prefer to see the NHL stay off cable next season rather than accept a no-rights-fee deal. "We're just coming off our highest-rated quarter in the history of the channel, so it feels like we have a great viewer base," Kay said. "I think we could do them a lot of good and they could do us a lot of good if we ever got to that place." Spike would love to add live events to its sports lineup. The network airs a weekend Major League Baseball highlight show, Maximum MLB, plus a reality program that followed the trials and tribulations of NBA rookies. Another reality-based program, Super Agent, is coming soon, taking an inside look at the cut-throat, multi-million dollar world of sports agents. The show features Dallas-based sports agent Scott Casterline.

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NHL Agents Irked

via Larry Brooks of the NY Post,

While the NHL yesterday completed its CBA team seminars, player agents are livid that they aren't scheduled to get their first look at the document until Wednesday night at the earliest and won't meet with PA executives to begin their review until late Thursday afternoon — after the players hold their ratification vote. "It's an outrage that the agents weren't sent an outline of the critical points over the weekend," one well-connected player rep said yesterday, echoing a sentiment shared by numerous of his colleagues who spoke with The Post. "Not only won't our players have the ability to consult with us before the ratification vote — obviously it's going to pass, that's not the point — but we're going to have a day or two to try and become familiar with this before Saturday, when teams can begin issuing qualifiers, signing their own free agents and buying out players. "Explain to me how the Players' Association thinks it's fair to the players that the teams essentially have a one-week start on us to map out their plans. This affects our players' lives. What are they thinking about? "Every [agent] I've talked to is furious." A PA executive told The Post that the CBA itself was still being proofread over the weekend and was not ready in any form for distribution, but that the union hoped it might be able to overnight a critical-points memo into agents' hands by this afternoon.

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Parity Everywhere

from the Toronto Globe and Mail,

"Overall, the deal is pretty much what we expected," said Edmonton Oilers governor Cal Nichols, who heads the Edmonton Investors Group. "Not being there during the negotiations, you understand there will always be some giving and taking. It came out differently. "But when you shake it all down to the bottom line, it's to the point where it should provide long-term stability for us and allow us to compete for high-end players," he said. "I think now, because we won't have three to five high-end players on the same team, we'll get back to a better balance [in the NHL]. We'll get back to a better game." An anonymous team official added: "It has to be a better game, otherwise we lost an entire year for nothing."
This may be the first time I have read a team official, althought anonymous, say something like that; interesting

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About Kukla's Korner Hockey

Paul Kukla founded Kukla’s Korner in 2005 and the site has since become the must-read site on the ‘net for all the latest happenings around the NHL.

From breaking news to in-depth stories around the league, KK Hockey is updated with fresh stories all day long and will bring you the latest news as quickly as possible.

Email Paul anytime at pk@kuklaskorner.com

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