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NHL commissioner Gary Bettman addresses the media during a news confernece on Tuesday, July 27 2010, at Heinz Field in Pittsburgh. Bettman will participate in this week's world hockey summit in Toronto. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP-Keith Srakocic (Keith Srakocic)
NHL commissioner Gary Bettman addresses the media during a news confernece on Tuesday, July 27 2010, at Heinz Field in Pittsburgh. Bettman will participate in this week's world hockey summit in Toronto. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP-Keith Srakocic (Keith Srakocic)

The Usual Suspects

NHL deserves Olympic compensation Add to ...

Brace yourself, Bridget, but Usual Suspects is about to agree with NHL commissioner Gary Bettman. Unless it gets a share of the profits and more influence on the 2014 Sochi Winter Olympics, the NHL shouldn't go to Russia.

The Olympic TV impact is negligible in most of the American burgs where Bettman has hawked franchises, the elite players are exhausted by the travel and it punishes the NHL regional broadcasters who must go on hiatus at a time when hockey has the stage almost alone to itself in February.

Plus, the NHL gets bupkis in return. As it stands now, the panjandrums of the International Olympic Committee and International Ice Hockey Federation are telling the league to butt out, they'll be the ones to collect the cash. They'll also tell you what uniforms teams can wear, how often you'll play and probably how much luggage you're entitled to bring.

It's a one-sided deal, one not reflecting the NHL's leverage: the world's best hockey players.

For now, neither side seems ready to budge, but there are a couple of TV reasons why they should get talking - soon. Sources say NBC - the NHL's U.S. network TV partner - has prepared two bids for the TV rights to Sochi: one with the NHL participating, the other without it.

We'll let you guess which is the larger figure.

It's hard to see CBS or ESPN (which don't have NHL rights) bidding even that much. Should the NHL sit out Sochi, someone will be taking a big haircut in IOC and IIHF offices.

The other issue is the NFL's plan to go to an 18-game schedule by 2014 - one that would land the Super Bowl (network TV's biggest ratings haul) smack in the middle of the Sochi Games. Stacking the NHL players in Russia against the NFL monolith is challenge enough.

But having the IOC taking a back seat to the NFL with the Belarus Irregulars against the Allan Cup champs? That dog ain't gonna' hunt.

The eminently sensible idea of using the world junior championships as a substitute hockey event should the NHL not show would certainly also be crushed by Super Bowl Sunday. As they say, nothing focuses the mind better than an impending ratings execution.

SUIT AND TIE

The Shane Doan/Denis Coderre libel battle is over. Last week, the sides reached an out-of-court settlement of their competing libel actions over media comments attributed to both.

In an instructive moment in the great Quebec/ROC fan dance, politicians from outside the province stood back while Quebec politicians such as Coderre and writers such as Rejean Tremblay publicly denounced Doan as being unworthy as captain for Team Canada. The reason: In a December, 2005, game in Montreal, Doan allegedly insulted a French speaking NHL linesman Michel Cormier, using ethnic slurs about "f***ing French."

Just one problem. The NHL cleared Doan of the charges. (It's now accepted that Slovak Ladislav Nagy made the offensive comments, robbing the issue of its nifty Two Solitudes angle.) This clearly didn't satisfy Coderre & Cie. who cited NHL bias and received a parliamentary inquisition into Doan's worthiness as a captain over something he never said.

This also led to complaints about Hockey Canada's record on choosing French Canadians for Team Canada. Quebec was portrayed as being disrespected - despite the fact that Montreal fans have themselves thrown bananas at black goalie Kevin Weekes and booed the U.S. national anthem.

The debate culminated in the counter libel suits between Doan and Coderre (a former federal sports minister).

Usual Suspects received the press release Thursday about the settlement. Doan still denies the charge but acknowledges the comments he never made himself were offensive to Quebeckers and that Coderre was justified in complaining about them. Coderre still cites the linesman's sworn statement that erroneously fingered Doan as the culprit and asks that the NHL investigate an incident it has already ruled upon.

The NHL, meanwhile, declines to contradict Cormier's sworn statements that insist Doan - a devout Christian who doesn't swear - was the foul-mouthed culprit.

Hello? Perhaps this incident could be sealed in a vault for someone wishing to understand modern day Canada 100 years from now. Maybe they'll be able to make more sense of it than we do today.

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