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National Hockey League commissioner Gary Bettman answers questions during a pre-game media availability before the Pittsburgh Penguins season opener against the New York Rangers in a NHL hockey game in Pittsburgh, Friday, Oct. 2, 2009. (Gene J. Puskar/AP)
National Hockey League commissioner Gary Bettman answers questions during a pre-game media availability before the Pittsburgh Penguins season opener against the New York Rangers in a NHL hockey game in Pittsburgh, Friday, Oct. 2, 2009. (Gene J. Puskar/AP)

Globe on Hockey

NBC, CBC in their own Stanley Cup battle Add to ...

If you don't think Gary Bettman has a preference for U.S. television over Canadian broadcasters, do not try and tell that to some folks at Hockey Night In Canada.

Thanks to a decision by the NHL commissioner, a spat between NBC and CBC ended with Glenn Healy broadcasting from the Zamboni entrance at the Bell Centre on Saturday afternoon instead of his usual perch between the players' benches. And NBC's Pierre McGuire had to cross the ice during breaks to conduct his in-game interviews.

The problem started when NBC struck a deal with RDS, the Quebec-based sports network, to take over its spot between the benches for Game 4 of the Eastern Conference final between the Montreal Canadiens and the Philadelphia Flyers.

Under the NHL's television agreements, priorities are established in each NHL arena for the various networks broadcasting the games. In the case of Saturday's game at the Bell Centre, RDS had the top priority, the CBC was No. 2 and NBC was third.

But NBC tried to grab the top priority in a deal with RDS, which would have allowed them to put McGuire between the benches for their telecast. It is not known what NBC offered RDS to give up its prime position.

Bettman, according to those familiar with the situation, was willing to allow the deal. But Hockey Night In Canada objected and Bettman had to make a ruling.

The ruling was that the original priority would prevail. Joel Bouchard of RDS got the coveted spot between the benches.

This did not please at least some people with the CBC, since the game had already been given a Saturday afternoon start to accommodate NBC. This probably cost the CBC a sizeable chunk of viewers since night games always draw better than afternoon games.



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