WHEN ESPN declined to renew its broadcasting deal with the NHL, it left a void that other ambitious broadcasting
companies might want to fill.
According to sources, one of those companies in the bidding is the Comcast Corp., the parent company of Comcast-Spectacor,
owners of the Flyers and Sixers.
Comcast-Spectacor chairman Ed Snider declined to comment on the issue yesterday.
According to a source, Comcast has been "working very hard on this," and said the company would set up a network
similar to the Outdoor Life Network, which is currently airing the Tour de France.
Meanwhile, ESPN is sitting back and waiting for the league to approach it.
Asked yesterday if the network planned to bid for the NHL rights again, ESPN spokeswoman Diane Lamb
read the network's prepared statement.
"We had a very good, long-term relationship with the NHL and we're always open to listening to potential scenarios
that have us both equally sharing any risk."
ESPN opted not to pick up a $60 million option last month.
When the NHL players meet tomorrow in Toronto, there is sure to be vocal opposition to the newly proposed
But when they meet again on Thursday for a ratification vote, it will take a lot more than grumbling to keep
the new agreement from being accepted.
Despite dissension and rumors that a significant number of players - one published report said entire teams
in some cases - will vote the deal down, the pact almost certainly will pass.
Flyers captain Keith Primeau has heard the grumbling and seen the reports, but said yesterday he couldn't
imagine a rejection of the offer worked out by the NHL Players Association leadership and the league.
"There have been some guys saying that they are not necessarily happy with the deal," Primeau said yesterday.
"As far as not ratifying it, how could we not ratify it? Can you imagine us coming out of that meeting and telling the public
we're going to turn down the deal?"
Apparently there is enough concern from within the union leadership that NHLPA boss Bob Goodenow has
issued a gag order, telling players not to comment on the proposal until they have seen the details.
Primeau is fine with that.
"I'm going to reserve my statements until I see what I'm making a statement on. But even if there are things
I don't like, how can I say no?"
Team executives spent yesterday in New York being briefed on the details of the new CBA. While the owners
are expected to vote this week, they have not yet said when.
Flyers chairman Ed Snider is expected to attend that meeting but was not in New York yesterday. Reached by
phone, Snider said he was waiting to hear from the Flyers' representatives who were at the meeting.
As soon as the pact is official, Snider said the Flyers will hold a news conference detailing their marketing
"I can't get into specifics right now, but I can tell you that we are going to do everything in our power
- pricing, marketing and promoting, that we can to bring our fans back.
"People will be excited. I haven't taken any polls, but I can tell you that walking around town I'm running
into a lot of people who are dying to have hockey back."
Bring on the rivals
Several of the league's general managers have been pushing through the lockout to scale back the number of
non-conference games to bring more meaning to the rivalries within their own divisions.
Flyers coach Ken Hitchcock has been a vocal supporter of the idea since the early days of the lockout.
"I'll love it," Hitchcock said yesterday. "It's good for the teams, good for the fans, good for the players,
good for the action. It will be like a miniplayoff series."