SBD/September 17, 2012/Leagues and Governing Bodies

NHL Lockout, Day 2: Union Considering Creation Of Canada-Russia Series

The NHLPA has been "pitching the idea of a multi-game exhibition tournament featuring Canadian and Russian NHL stars,” according to Rick Westhead of the TORONTO STAR. The NHLPA has had “preliminary discussions about the possibility of an eight-game series in November split between Russia and Canada.” The union is “floating the idea of a tournament to broadcasters and sponsors because it’s scrambling to generate money, believing cash payments to players might help even the playing field in their battle against the NHL’s well-heeled owners, who, in past negotiations, have proven they can outwait players for a better labour contract.” Hockey Canada COO Scott Smith confirmed that the NHLPA has contacted his organization “to hold preliminary discussions about a tournament.” Smith said that Hockey Canada is "waiting for more information about the NHLPA’s plans.” Westhead reported the proposal “faces a number of potential pitfalls.” Companies sponsoring the NHL “might not want to spend their advertising budget on financing such a tournament because they’d need cash for marketing when the NHL does sign an agreement with its players.” Broadcasters are "also leery about the pitch." The CBC and TSN both have deals with the NHL, while Sportsnet has regional NHL TV deals. Broadcast officials indicated that none of the broadcast partners "want to hurt their relationships with the league” (TORONTO STAR, 9/15).

BROADCASTING OPTIONS: Westhead in a separate piece noted the NHLPA for matchups in Russia “could negotiate a deal with Cineplex Entertainment for games to be shown in movie theatres during the afternoon.” It is “a tactic that’s worked in India, where games featuring the Indian Premier League’s cricket teams have been broadcast in cinemas the past several years.” Cineplex has "previously shown live sports events," including NHL games,the Vancouver Olympics and Wimbledon tennis. It is also possible the union "could negotiate with web-search-turned-media company Yahoo Inc. which earlier this year said it was considering a bid for the Canadian broadcast rights to the Olympics." One media exec said that the NHLPA “could also strike deals directly with cable operators, who could sell games via pay-per-view” (TORONTO STAR, 9/15).
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