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Shoalts: Softball Add to ...

The NHL has come up with a cloying twist to its news conferences at the Stanley Cup final.

When the floor is opened for questions at the most important conferences, the first one always goes to someone from the NHL's television network. This person then serves up a softball question designed to cast the league in the most positive way possible.

It is a ploy so transparent and so obviously scripted it has veteran journalists shaking their heads.

For example, on Saturday night NHL commissioner Gary Bettman held his annual state-of-the-union news conference two hours before Game 1 of the Stanley Cup final. After he made his usual opening remarks about just how wonderful the past season was, it was opened up for questions.

Gary Green from the NHL Network was ready at the microphone:

"At this point in time, often times television ratings come up in this session. I understand they're positive this year. But how does the league measure the kind of unprecedented access that hockey fans have across the world through all the new technology?"

As eyes rolled throughout the room, Bettman made his reply:

"That's an interesting and intriguing question…."

I'll spare you the rest of his answer, which bragged that television ratings on the U.S. cable network Versus are now better than what the league had on ESPN. He also got in a plug for NHL.com, the NHL Network and satellite radio.

Meanwhile, if you care to follow this link see if you can find the NHL playoffs anywhere on this list of the top U.S. sports events in early May by TV ratings.


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