The NHL lost their lucrative cable TV deal with ESPN when the lockout ended last season. This year, they have a new deal.
With the Outdoor Life Network.
OLN is the network that brought us the Tour de Lance for the past seven years has taken hockey away after ESPN turned down a second opportunity to broadcast the new season.
This seems to me to be a perfect fit. The NHL needed ESPN far more than ESPN needed the NHL, which put the NHL in an awkward bargaining position when it came time for contract renewal. OLN is a fairly unknown channel — in fact, I had to double-check just now to make sure that it was available to me. And it isn't.
And that's exactly what I mean. OLN has an opportunity to pick up a LOT of new subscribers because of this contract. People will be calling their cable providers to get the channel — often paying more for "premium service" in the process. The cable companies will win. The network will win.
The league will win — eventually. They need a cable TV presence. The network could have been more high-profile (Fox Sports would have been my choice, personally. They already have a contract for the Blue Jackets games here in Ohio), but there will be hockey on cable TV this year. I think it will be slow going at first, but the league will come back eventually. Maybe smaller (as I've talked about before), but it will live.
The losers are, of course, the fans. We lost an entire season. Many of us will lose the ability to watch a lot of hockey because we don't have OLN. Some will pay more money to get OLN, or will fork out the money for a Season Pass type subscription that gets us all the games. But we'll survive.