NBC Sports Network will feel pain of NHL lockout starting tonight; forced to air old DeNiro flick instead of hockey

If you’re a fan of old classic sports movies, you’re going to love the NHL lockout.

Tonight, instead of airing the scheduled hockey doubleheader that would have kicked off the season, NBC Sports Network will show The Fan, starring Robert DeNiro and Wesley Snipes. Not once, but twice.

Hey, wouldn’t Slap Shot have been more appropriate for what was supposed to be the NHL’s opening night?

In upcoming weeks, expect to see The Natural, Rocky, Rudy, and whatever else NBCSN can dig up in its vault.

The NHL stoppage (Note: Illustraton by Nate Beeler of Columbus Dispatch) couldn’t come at a worse time for NBCSN. After enjoying a terrific run during the Olympics, the network has had a dearth of live programming from Monday through Friday.

That would have changed with hockey starting. NBCSN is supposed to air games on Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday nights, with Wednesday being exclusive. A Sunday night package returns after Jan. 1.

All told, NBC and NBCSN were scheduled to air more than 100 regular-season games. Obviously, that’s not going to be the case with the current labor situation.

How is NBCSN going to fill the void? Here’s the official comment:

“It’s unfortunate that the lockout is causing the cancellation of games from our schedule. In the interim, we have a large amount of quality live-event programming, including soccer, boxing, college hockey and college basketball, that will air in place of NHL games. We look forward to presenting the NHL to its fans as soon as the labor situation is resolved.”

Indeed, you can get your Pierre McGuire fix on Friday night. He and Dave Strader will be on call for the Ice Breaker Tournament in Kansas City Friday and Saturday. It features Notre Dame, Maine, Army and Nebraska-Omaha.

Technically, it’s hockey, but it’s not the same as what was on tap for Friday night: New York Rangers at Los Angeles, with the Stanley Cup banner being raised in the Staples Center.

The post-Olympics period hasn’t been kind to the NBCSN. John Ourand of Street & Smith’s Sports Business Journal reports ratings have hit “historic lows.” An August airing of Costas Live attracted only 40,000 viewers. Hard to believe.

NBCSN also failed to land a portion of the new Major League Baseball TV deal. Regardless of the costs, I thought the network needed baseball to boost its profile.

Usually, NBCSN could count on its old pal hockey, beginning in October. But thanks to Gary Bettman, owners and players, that window is closed for now.

While it has some replacement programming in place, it hardly has enough to fill the huge void.

For instance, instead of hockey on Monday, NBCSN will show highlights from the women’s gymastics team competition at the Olympics. On tape, naturally.








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