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By Stan Silliman
       
ESPN TO NHL: GET THE PUCK OUTTA HERE

    NHL struck a cable deal with Outdoor Life thus ending a long relationship with ESPN.
    ESPN says “Sorry, Hockey. It’s been good knowing you. We had a few laughs but don’t let the door hit you on the way out.”

    Don’t you hate it when marriages break up? It’s sad. I know my neighbor Lyle hates it. He feels these guys (ESPN and Hockey) grew up together, buddied around, pioneered special visual techniques together, ate Canadian bacon together at the diner. You know.

    Lyle is a big hockey fan, like he calls my old favorite cowboy actor “Wah” Rogers. Lyle’s is such a dedicated fan he selects tobacco tins in the shape of hockey pucks.  Lyle is somewhat of an outdoor sportsman but still he can’t handle the NHL being broadcast on the Outdoor Life Network. That’s the network best known for moose calls and live coverage of the Tour de France - the network bringing us bass fishing specials and how best to pitch a pup tent.

    Lyle is a little livid. “They screwed my hockey boys, ESPN did. Outdoor Life picks them up and they don’t know anything about shooting stuff indoors. OLN is more about ducks than pucks. They’ve got Buckmasters (deerhunters) not puck masters. I’ll go to Outdoor Life if I want to see Bill Dance…”

    Bill who I’m thinking? I didn’t know Lyle was into dancing shows. I bet he was ragged about Peterman losing that TV dancing contest. Later Lyle tells me if I don’t know who Bill Dance is, I don’t know fishing. He’s got me there.

    Both the NHL and ESPN acted like they parted on good terms with ESPN President George Bodenheimer citing the work stoppage, ratings history, financial models but wishing all the best to his former partner.

    “That’s a crock, y’know,” says Lyle, “ESPN dumped them and hockey was ESPN’s major pro sport. ESPN 2 was born to show more hockey. You know what replaced my pucksters?
Poker, that’s what. Fat guys pushing chips… little bitty hockey pucks. Instead of bearded Frenchmen slinging their sticks on the ice we have croupiers using their sticks to rake in chips. Oh, oh, oh, ‘I’m all in,’ and I’m a pondering dark-glasses wearing athlete. Can you get a little sick about this, Silliman?”

    ESPN is still showing spelling bees and scrabble, I tell Lyle. “Of course,” screams Lyle “Little Miss Hawaii spelling bodacious doesn’t cost Disney anything. Sponsoring a scrabble tournament? Is there some kind of payroll you have to meet there? How many zambonis does it take to clean up a scrabble board?”    

    So you’re saying hockey is on thin ice with the Outdoor Life deal, I ask Lyle. “It’s better than nothing,” Lyle responds, “but $ 3 Mil per team (OLN’s yearly amount) isn’t going to pay the dental bills. And one of the two weekday nights OLN has them scheduled is Monday, up against Monday Night Football.  ESPN has poker on three times a day, four days a week. You trade your wife in for a gambling addiction? It’s not right. Not unless all your drinks are comp.”
ESPN to NHL
    One of the shows on OLN gets me thinking and I tell Lyle, as passionate as he is, maybe he should start an organization to preserve and promote hockey. Call it Pucks Unlimited.
     
    
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