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The NHL's image problem in B.C. Add to ...

First off, let's get one thing straight: the Canucks did not lose Game 3 because of Daniel Sedin's disallowed goal. They lost because their penalty killing was atrocious, and their goaltending was poor.

The Canucks were deserving losers. Period, full stop.

But the reason why conspiracy theories -- i.e. the league wants the Kings to win -- are floating around B.C. is because, by action if not words, the NHL commissioner has made it clear that U.S. Sunbelt markets are more important than markets in Canada.

That may be untrue and unfair, but rightfully or wrongfully, that is the impression Gary Bettman has cast in his nearly two decades as commissioner. The genie isn't going back in the bottle at this late stage.

Canadians, and most certainly Canucks fans, who have sold out GM Place for 300-plus consecutive dates, have an insatiable appetite for hockey and aren't going anywhere.

American fans, particularly those in big, southern cities where the game has little history and where there are plenty of other entertainment options, have shown that they can live fine and well without pucks. Look no further than the lockout.

After eight years out of the playoffs, the Kings need some sugar right now. They need to make a mark in a market where fans are blasé, at best.

The Lakers continue to roll along winning championships and the NFL will soon return to town. Even soccer is bigger down here thanks to David Beckham -- there was a full page of coverage (compared to one column on the Kings) in Sunday's Los Angeles Times, including a list of the 20 best footballers in the world.

Go to Youtube, and you can find examples of goals that were allowed, and where the "propelling" or "kicking motion" was more pronounced than Sedin's redirection in Game 3.

There's a Todd Bertuzzi goal earlier this month. Heck, there's even a Daniel Sedin goal against Chicago in January. When you lay Sedin's disallowed goal against these tallies, you get suspicious.

And when you consider the context of the Auger-Burrows feud from January, and how that embarrassed the league and its officials, you can begin building the case against Vancouver. When you consider Bettman's chummy relationship with Kings owner Philip Anschutz and CEO Tim Leiweke, you can begin building the case for L.A.

The conspiracy is almost certainly more imagined than real, but if the NHL truly cared about its Canadian patrons, it would draw no distinction and move to appease its most loyal fans, and fix its image problem.

But the NHL won't do that because a) Canadian hockey fans will keep coming back despite the abuse, and because b) Bettman is loath to admit failure.

There has not been a single mistake in his entire tenure. Not one. Ever. Just ask him.

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