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Usual Suspects

Star's Cox in negotiations to join TSN full-time Add to ...

Damien Cox is leaving the Toronto Star to join TSN full-time, according to various sources.

A fellow staffer says the sports columnist has resigned effective April 1.

But Cox is playing coy: "Negotiations are ongoing," Cox tells Usual Suspects in an e-mail. "Expecting to finalize soon, but you never know."

Cox's move would come as little surprise as rumours of his pursuit of options outside the paper have swirled for months. It would also bolster TSN as it prepares fort an anticipated challenge from Rogers Sportsnet. He would join Dave Naylor, former football reporter for the Globe & Mail, as recent additions to the journalistic side of the operation.

Requests for comment from TSN were not returned by press time.

In addition, Rob Gray, the program director for TEAM 1040 in Vancouver, has apparently been entrusted with getting the Toronto TSN station operational in the near future. The Vancouver station, owned by TSN sister company CHUM Radio, has posted strong ratings of late and the veteran radio hand is to co-ordinate hiring for the new station. A firm start-up date has yet to be established.

Still On Air

Rogers Sportsnet says that Louis DeBrusk, TV analyst for Edmonton Oilers broadcasts, will remain on air pending resolution of assault charges in Vancouver. Police say DeBrusk, 39, was arrested January 9, after witnesses reported a man assaulting two cab drivers and two bystanders. The man also reportedly caused damage to two taxi cabs. Police said alcohol is believed to have been a factor.

DeBrusk has been charged with four counts of assault and two counts of committing mischief under $5,000. He is scheduled to appear in Vancouver court Thursday.

Scott Moore, president of Rogers Media, told Usual Suspects, "This is a matter in front of the courts. We need to let the process play out."

Good Bet

NHL commissioner Gary Bettman probably isn't strolling the halls of league headquarters saying, "You feeling lucky, punk?" but he might well be feeling his oats. Bettman told ESPN to get lost coming out of the 2004-'05 lockout and backed Comcast/Versus (then Outdoor Life Network) and NBC as his TV partners.

Walking away from ESPN - a powerful cable conglomerate that also owns a national radio network and popular website - was for years widely considered a mistake in the industry. NBC paid zero dollars for NHL network rights, working instead on a split-profit basis. Hockey disappeared from many cable systems and from American attention spans.

No more. Tuesday, the U.S. Justice Department and the FCC finally approved Comcast's $13.8-billion (U.S.) deal to take a majority stake in General Electric's NBC Universal. The marriage of the two communications giants - announced 13 month ago - should produce a powerful rival to ESPN. NBC also owns Olympics and NFL rights.

So Bettman's bet has at long last played out - just in time for the league's U.S. TV negotiations, a process that is gearing up now. The Comcast/NBC merger will give the NHL extra leverage as it tries to get the IOC to compensate it for the league's participation in future Winter Games. NBC currently holds the Olympic TV rights in the U.S.

Candid Camera

Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers has gone from hero to zero as a result of a video that appears to show him snubbing a cancer survivor who is looking for an autograph. In the video Rodgers walks past a woman in a pink football jersey who is looking to have her hat autographed.

The video went viral and websites such as Pro Football Talk jumped on the Packers' QB just hours after his brilliant performance against Atlanta. Rodgers is now left trying to explain that he'd given lots of autographs to the same woman in the past and the brush-off was an oversight. The woman, Jan Cavanaugh, is reportedly mortified that her favourite player is being slammed for ignoring her.

But the damage is done. Somewhere Alan Funt, the creator of Candid Camera a half century ago, must be smiling.

dowbboy@shaw.ca

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