Hockey Nearly Loses Its Best US Network TV Advocate…

While Gary Bettman and Bob Goodenow duke it out in a battle that is guaranteed to end with both sides bleeding badly – the NHL’s best US TV advocate, Dick Ebersol, this weekend escaped death in a private plane crash. One of his son’s was killed in the crash.

Ebersol is the chief of NBC Sports and is well known for his influence on Olympic broadcasts as well as bringing the US Open (golf) to NBC. He also is the most notable person linked with inking the 2 year deal with the NHL that basically put the NHL into a commission agreement (like arena football) but also kept its games on national TV in the US. That deal comes as ABC bailed after its long term ESPN-ABC deal expired. ESPN agreed to renew for this year which is about to be canceled due to the lockout.

Both sides in this FOOLISH battle need to use the Ebersol miracle as a “starting point” to get their asses in a room and work out a deal. The simple fact is – without TV ratings in the US hockey will never grow. Moreover, if this season is lost for the first time in pro sports history the players will NEVER make the money they can if they settle for a reasonable cap (higher than $31 million being offered by the NHL and with a franchise player clause).

Make no mistake, the US TV deals (ESPN and NBC) in place are all loaded towards the last part of the season. You think the owners want to walk from $60,000,000 from ESPN? I doubt it. Making $60,000,000 is better than spending $300,000,000 in ANYBODY’s math.

I predict NHL hockey will be back by January 21, 2005. The price is simply too high to stand for both sides but I would be it all on being based around a salary cap.

Sources: CNN, Los Angeles Times