Kukla's Korner

Kukla's Korner Hockey

Blackhawks On The Way Back

from Terry Frei of ESPN,

Judging from recent events in Chicago, hell has frozen over -- and the Zamboni is making a between-periods circuit. That'll happen when pigs fly! Judging from recent events in Chicago, hogs, boars and swine of all kinds are in the landing patterns at O'Hare, albeit running late because of edicts from air traffic control. With new general manager Dale Tallon -- a former defenseman, golf pro, scout and radio analyst -- wielding the pen and contracts in the wake of the new collective bargaining agreement, the Blackhawks have become heavy hitters, signing Nikolai Khabibulin and Adrian Aucoin, plus less-heralded Martin Lapointe.

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Leafs Sign Aubin

John Ferguson, general manager of the Toronto Maple Leafs, announced Thursday that the club has signed goaltender Jean-Sebastien Aubin to a one year contract. In keeping with club policy, terms of the contract were not disclosed.

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Bettman Sees Growth Potential

from the AP via Fox Sports,

Get the clicker ready, hockey fans. The NHL is taking its games outside the traditional realm of sports television. The NHL announced Thursday it has reached a two-year deal that will put games on Outdoor Life Network, starting on opening night in October. NHL commissioner Gary Bettman is eager to get hockey back on the air following the lockout that wiped out all of last season. But OLN is only available in 64 million households, compared to 90 million that have ESPN. "There's a huge pent-up demand exploding on all levels as we anticipate the relaunch on Oct. 5," Bettman said Thursday. "We're delighted by the presence and prominence of OLN."

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NHL Improves Standing

I believe this article should be dated August 18th, not the 17th. from Media Week,

The National Hockey League came out better in its new TV rights deal with Outdoor Life Network and Comcast than most observers thought it would, gleaning more money than it was guaranteed under its previous agreement, and gaining a commitment for cable carriage of a new NHL Network. In addition, the new deal includes a broadband component, under which some NHL games will air via streaming video, and a video on demand component.

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Appointment Television

Darren Rovell, who covers the business side of sports for ESPN, was on The Fan 590 in TO, and said he has received around 400 emails regarding his article from yesterday. Fans are writing him saying they will now have to search for the game instead of just stumbling on it while flicking thru ESPN. The NHL has just proved the game is a niche sport, or else they would have taken less money and stayed with ESPN. They are now the big fish in a little pond as compared to what they were. He has no doubt the NHL will grow, but now they have to be re-discovered again on OLN. Rovell said Bettman should admit they are selling the game to the hardcore fans. No longer are they trying to market the game to everyone and he should just admit that but he refuses to say so. Rovell said the NHL would never get much promotion on ESPN, for the simple reason that not many people are interested in it. Now they will on OLN but how many people will they reach.

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Avoiding Positive Drug Test

from Canada.com,

No one wants to be that guy. No one wants to be the hockey player who tests positive at February's Olympic Games in Turin, Italy, because of a banned substance in a cold medication or a nutritional supplement. "You get caught with something you didn't know was a banned substance, then it's an embarrassment to yourself, to the country and your family," Colorado Avalanche defenceman Rob Blake said Thursday at the Olympic team orientation camp. "You don't want to be in that position. Guys understand sometimes there are things you take on a daily basis that you never thought was a banned substance.

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Bettman Interview

Gary Bettman was just on The Fan 590 in Toronto. The radio guys wer kidding him that he pulled another one out of his hat regarding the TV contract. Bettman said the NHL is valuable and deserves to be treated as such. Bettman talked about the NBC contract. He believes long term the NHL will make money, the ratings NBC is going by are very low in his opinion so there is room to grow. Now that a partnership exists with the players, he feels ESPN should have exercised their option but they did not so they move in another direction and here we are. NHL will be a priority for OLN in terms of scheduling and promotion. He felt ESPN had other sports to promote more than the NHL. The new contract is just not with OLN, but with Comcast who reaches almost a quarter of the U.S. households. Things like VOD, game streaming will help the NHL out. Much more in-depth coverage. Bettman is comparing the move to OLN like the one in Canada, from TSN to Sportsnet, look at the growth of Sportsnet since that move took place. Says OLN will stay with the NHL after the game is over, extensive interviews, highlights, etc. With ESPN, they went to Sports Center two minutes after the final buzzer. Bettman said streaming of the NHL games will be blacked out in local markets, including Canada and they are trying to work out the details with Comcast now. Bettman mentioned will do at least one game a week in HD with Comcast/OLN. Not enough trucks and some arenas are not even set up for HD. Said will eventually get all three games in HD (one game on Monday and two regional games on Tuesday). Bettman danced around the CBC lockout regarding hockey, said he isn't even thinking about it now, will look into how to handle broadcasts if the lockout runs into October.

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OLN Plans

from Broadcasting & Cable,

After beating out ESPN for TV rights to National Hockey League games, Comcast's OLN channel will be seeking higher license fees from cable and DBS operators when the many of the tiny network's carriage deals come up for renewal at the end of the year. “There’s no question that we believe we’re going to be expanding the number of homes [OLN is] available in, and I think when you add something like the NHL it’s fair to assume your affiliate fee will go up,” said Comcast COO Steve Burke, although he declined to specify the percentage of deals that will expire or how much Comcast will seek to increase subscription rates during carriage renewals. Under a deal finalized Tuesday, OLN agreed to pay some $65 million to telecast hockey’s upcoming season. It will run the first of the 58 regular-season games on Oct. 5 and run exclusive national games each Monday and Tuesday during the season, including some planned double-headers. The games will be followed by a wrap-up show, and OLN will seek to use other outlets including VOD and broadband to make game highlights widely available. OLN president Gavin Harvey called the NHL a “monumental acquisition” and a new “cornerstone franchise” for the network. OLN will also offer as many games as possible in HD. That could help appease fans already disgruntled by hockey’s strike who now have to seek out the sport through a new cable venue. It might also help account for a potential lessening of NHL coverage on ESPN, which devoted five nights a week to hockey wrap-up show NHL Tonight during hockey season when it aired the sport. It is yet to be determined just how much coverage the sport will now get on mega-sports network ESPN, which passed the option to match Comcast’s offer for the low-rated league. OLN's reach is far less than mighty ESPN or sibling ESPN2. For the summer to date, OLN averaged just 225,000 total viewers in prime time. ESPN, by contrast, average 1.25 million and ESPN2, 581,000 total viewers. OLN is also only available in 64 million homes (vs. ESPN's 90 million) and 10% of OLN's systems offer it only on a digital tier to a portion of its customers. That has not affected interest from advertisers, contends NHL commissioner Gary Bettman. “If you look out a couple of years looking back this will hopefully be a pivotal moment in the growth of OLN,” he said

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Cloutier Signs 2 Year Deal

via Sportsnet,

The Vancouver Canucks have locked up their goalie for the next two years. Sportsnet has learned goalie Dan Cloutier has signed a two-year deal worth $5 million. The official announcement is expected later today.

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Kings Sign Fukufuji

image

from the AP via Yahoo,
Yutaka Fukufuji is ready to ride the buses in hockey's backwaters a few more years if that's what it takes to make the NHL. The Japanese goaltender signed a two-year contract with the Los Angeles Kings this month and will attend a rookie camp next month. "My goal is to play in the NHL," Fukufuji said at a news conference Thursday. "I know it will be tough, but I'm ready for rookie camp and I'm looking forward to taking on my rivals." While some have likened Fukufuji to baseball's Hideo Nomo, the soft-spoken goalie has other things on his mind than being a pioneer.

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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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