Good Times Coming for NHL

NHL.com’s top headline on Monday said it all.   Rather than being a story about the impending 2009—10 regular season, the first link on the site read “Email DirecTV about missing NHL games on VS.”
Good Times Coming for NHL
GOOD FOR NHL: Alex Ovechkin and Sidney Crosby shake hands after a blockbuster seven-game series was won by the Penguins last season. (Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)
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<a><img src="https://www.theepochtimes.com/assets/uploads/2015/09/crosbyovechkin.jpg" alt="GOOD FOR NHL: Alex Ovechkin and Sidney Crosby shake hands after a blockbuster seven-game series was won by the Penguins last season. (Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)" title="GOOD FOR NHL: Alex Ovechkin and Sidney Crosby shake hands after a blockbuster seven-game series was won by the Penguins last season. (Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)" width="320" class="size-medium wp-image-1826023"/></a>
GOOD FOR NHL: Alex Ovechkin and Sidney Crosby shake hands after a blockbuster seven-game series was won by the Penguins last season. (Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)
NHL.com’s top headline on Monday said it all.
 
Rather than being a story about the impending 2009–10 regular season, the first link on the site read “Email DirecTV about missing NHL games on VS.”
 
But that shouldn’t be surprising, as the National Hockey League seemed to be less about hockey and more about corporate battles these past few months.
 
The league saw wunderkind Sidney Crosby and the Pittsburgh Penguins defeat the Detroit Red Wings in seven games in the Stanley Cup finals, but then things went downhill.
 
NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman and league officials have received a lot of criticism for their television deal with the VS (Versus) channel. Many say it is a little-known channel and not many people have access to it unless they order it through a cable package.
 
Major satellite television provider DirecTV—which provides service to over 18.3 million American households and is popular among sports fans—is involved in a fight with VS.
 
DirecTV dropped Versus over a rate dispute on Sept. 1, and with the regular season starting, this is not news the NHL wants to hear—the league is encouraging fans who are subscribers to write DirecTV.
 
But that wasn’t all.

The dominant story for much of the summer has been the legal bickering between the league and Research in Motion (RIM)—the people behind the Blackberry—and CEO Jim Balsillie for ownership of the Phoenix Coyotes.
 
Balsillie has attempted to buy a number of NHL clubs before, including the Penguins, but the league has always thwarted his attempts, ostensibly because the RIM CEO wants to move the team to Hamilton.
 
In the latest bid, Coyotes majority owner Jerry Moyes filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy and planned on selling the team to Balsillie before the Commissioner Gary Bettman and the league stepped in.
 
A number of bankruptcy hearings have taken place, and with the start of the season drawing nigh, no firm decision is in sight.

Looking Forward

Despite the tumultuous off-season, there are a number of reasons to be excited about the 2009–10 regular season.

Although suffering from a groin injury, Sidney Crosby is back on track as the Pittsburgh Penguins begin defense of their Stanley Cup title.
 
Rival Alexander Ovechkin and the 2009 Southeast champion Washington Capitals begin the regular season in Boston against the Bruins on Thursday.
 
The two have a rivalry reminiscent of the one between the NBA’s Magic Johnson and Larry Bird in the 80s and both are in the prime of their careers.
 
Crosby and Ovechkin are 22 and 24 years of age respectively and have combined for the last three Hart Trophy awards (Ovechkin has taken the last two). It wouldn’t be out of the realm of possibility to see one of the two named NHL MVP again this year.
 
The season will also break for the 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver, British Columbia, and so fans of puck will enjoy better than NHL-quality hockey at the Olympics.
 
GM Place, or Canada Hockey Place as it will be called for the Olympics, will use an NHL-sized ice surface and not the usual international-sized rink.
 
Not only will the NHL’s best hockey players represent their countries in the Winter Games, they will do so in a North American time zone.

The NHL’s offseason was clouded by the Phoenix Coyote bankruptcy story and the DirecTV-Versus fiasco, but as they say, every dark cloud has a silver lining. Optimism abounds as the hockey season gets underway.
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