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August 18 - Is Happiness Bristol in the Rear View Mirror?

Over two decades ago, long-time NY-area sportscaster Sal Marchiano
closed his final SportsCenter by saying “Happiness is Seeing Bristol in
Your Rear View Mirror”.

The NHL is now in a position to find out if he was correct. Early this
morning, for perhaps the final time in a long while, ESPN [technically
ESPN2] broke into a major league baseball game for a hockey story –
this time the story though was about itself.

ESPN had declined to match the terms of the NHL’s agreement with
Comcast, meaning that for the first time since 1992, ESPN was no longer
the rightsholder for the National Hockey League.

Comcast will show NHL games on OLN, formerly known as Outdoor Life Network, famous for its
coverage of the Tour de France and the America's Cup, and not much else.  OLN is available in about
63 million US homes, providing only about 70% of the coverage found in ESPN’s 90 million
households.  While ESPN is a basic service, in many places, including Long Island, you’ll need a
special “Sports Tier” to find OLN on cable.

Details have not yet been officially released although one report says the deal covers 58-78 regular
season games plus playoffs, is guaranteed for two years with options to extend it to as many as six.

OLN has lots to do in the seven weeks before the NHL hits the ice.  As a hockey fan, you wish them
well.  

While Gary Bettman said all of the right things, “ESPN has been a great partner”, etc., the truth may be
a bit less rosy.  Even on nights that ESPN carried Stanley Cup games, the stories rarely led
SportsCenter.  During the late winter, the NHL virtually disappeared in a swirl of college basketball
games.

ESPN will be fine without the NHL.  The NHL will soon find out whether they will also benefit from this
divorce.