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Posted at 03:46 PM ET, 05/21/2007

The Caps on the Preakness

I was at the Preakness Saturday, so I didn't suffer the hockey fan's indignity of seeing an overtime game in the Eastern Conference finals be preempted in favor of a horse-racing pre-game show. Hockey bloggers will be able to make their living off this for several years. From Off Wing Opinion:

Just another reminder that hockey, even playoff hockey, just doesn't move the meter much South of the border. Something tells me this isn't the last indignity the league will be suffering over the next few years.

From James Mirtle:

This kind of coverage isn't serving anyone. It shafts the players, the teams, viewers in both the U.S. and Canada, the league itself and even the owners, who gain little in revenue and a lot in negative media coverage from such a shoddy partnership. Flush it down.

From Hockey Hearsay:

That the preamble to a horse race, albeit a major one, is more important to the average American than a sudden-death period of a conference final elimination game is a sad statement to a commissioner who is still clinging to hope that the game can be grown in the U.S.

Personally, I wondered whether the Caps and their execs were live-suffering the same indignity as the typical hockey fan. Many were.

From George McPhee: "It sure doesn't make any sense to those of us who love hockey, and probably no sense to the average sports fan either. That shouldn't have happened."

[Although actually, McPhee was en route to Hershey and was TiVo'ing the game. He said it allows him to watch an average game in about an hour.]

From Olie Kolzig: "Could you imagine if they did that in the NFL or a baseball game? It would never happen. That's obviously the big hurdle that the NHL has to overcome in the U.S. market, is TV. I was frustrated. As soon as they said that I was like, 'Aw, c'mon'."

As for the first question, the "could you imagine" one, Ted Leonsis could imagine it.

"Heidi game," he said he immediately thought. "I went into the time tunnel."

Of course, in this case, the game didn't disappear completely, it just moved to Versus. As has been much reported in recent days, Versus is in about 38 million fewer homes than NBA. And, in fact, not everyone could find Versus, or at least, not everyone knew to look. Brian Pothier, for example. The Caps defenseman said he never heard the announcement that the game was switching to Versus, and so he missed the ending even though he gets Versus.

"I watched the Preakness for a bit, [then] I just bailed, I had some stuff to do around the house so I took off," he told me. "Obviously I wanted to finish watching the game in overtime, the best part, but what are you going to do?"

Leonsis is less resigned. He has a meeting in New York with the NHL's digital media folks this week, and the preempting will be among the issues discussed.

"The league already gets it, I just want to speed up the agenda," he told me today. "I do understand the [NBC] decision. But it also shows what I've been advocating. Why be the number four sport on television, or the number five sport? Let's innovate and drive our agenda on the broadband internet. We have the most wired community. With broadband and video, I should have been able to watch that game live when they left instead of trying to find Versus."

I asked whether he had expressed that opinion to the league offices.

"Very strongly," he said.

By  |  03:46 PM ET, 05/21/2007

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