NHL tells TV to take a hike

AL STRACHAN -- Toronto Sun

, Last Updated: 2:11 PM ET

A number of television networks have pleaded with the National Hockey League to have access to the coming draft lottery.

However, the NHL, already overburdened with far too much publicity and an even greater amount of public goodwill, has imperiously rejected all of those pleas.

And who can blame them? It's far better to have these events conducted in secrecy. After all, a draft lottery which determines the future home of Sidney Crosby is none of the fans' business.

One of those television networks, somehow managing to remain unoffended by this haughty and condescending approach from the NHL, asked if it could take another tack.

With hockey about to come back into the sporting world, it seemed reasonable to assume that the league's public-relations department would be gearing up for a big splash.

The network made it clear that it would like to do a positive story, one known in the industry as a puff piece. Therefore, it requested permission to send over a cameraman and do some shooting in the PR offices.

The request was flatly denied.

Tell us again about the new, positive, fan-friendly NHL.

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One of the franchises likely to make big changes to keep pace with the new collective bargaining agreement is the St. Louis Blues.

The Blues were put on the market a few weeks ago but now, with a new CBA in place, ownership may sit tight.

Whether it does or not, few observers expect more than one of the team's three highest-paid players -- Chris Pronger, Doug Weight and Keith Tkachuk -- to stay where they are.

It seems almost certain that Tkachuk, who for reasons known only to Blues management was earning $10 million US before the rollback, will be unloaded. He'll probably have to be bought out, because any player who earns $7.6 million and has never won a playoff round is untradeable.

Then the Blues will decide which of the other two to keep. Pronger is the better player, but Weight is much more outgoing, a much better quote and, in the minds of many fans, a much more exciting player to watch.

So perhaps Pronger and his pre-rollback salary of $9.5 million -- now $7.22 million -- gets unloaded.

Where would he go? The hot whisper around the NHL is that the Los Angeles Kings are exploring the possibility of acquiring him in a trade.

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One of the most influential men in the NHL, New Jersey Devils CEO and general manager Lou Lamoriello, long has insisted that one of hockey's biggest shortcomings is its lack of rivalries.

Therefore, Lamoriello has constantly pushed for an increase in divisional play on the premise that the more times teams face each other, the more intense the rivalries become.

Apparently, Lamoriello's pleas have been heeded. It now appears that in the new NHL, teams will play each divisional opponent eight times per season. That's 32 games. Also on the schedule will be four games against the other teams in the conference. That pushes the total to 72.

To get to the 82 required for a full season, a team will play a home-and-home series against one division in the other conference on a rotation basis.

If that formula is indeed imposed, it will mean an end to the Maple Leafs' rivalry with the western Canadian teams as the Leafs only will go into western Canada once every three years.

Conversely, teams like Colorado, Dallas and Detroit will play in Toronto only once every three years.

But let's look on the bright side. The same is true of Nashville, Chicago and Anaheim.


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