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The surprising news that former Columbus Blue Jackets general manager Doug MacLean was joining forces with Jim Balsillie, whom he had roundly criticized the past year, prompted an acrimonious radio interview between MacLean and radio host Bob McCown on yesterday's edition of Prime Time Sports.

McCown had spent the better part of two hours ripping MacLean for what he characterized as an opportunistic move before bringing him on the show.

After deliberately calling the veteran radio host "MacGowan" during the interview (McCown riposted by calling him "Mac-Kleen"), a pugnacious MacLean accused McCown of backstabbing him. "It's not unlike you when someone's not in the studio to battle you face to face that you're at your best. … For you to say it's suicidal for me [to join Balsillie]with the NHL … it was suicidal for me with the NHL when I became a friend of yours."

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Asked to explain what seems like an epic about-face, MacLean played the statesman who would talk sense to Balsillie, the Canadian billionaire bidding for the Phoenix Coyotes.

"I was totally blown away when they approached me about would I consider talking to them," said MacLean, who's serving as an adviser to Balsillie's group. "I think I can be a great bridge to bring this together. … I hope they see it as a positive that now the Balsillie group has an NHL guy in their group that can help bridge this and make it work."

Prime Time co-host Stephen Brunt, of The Globe and Mail, reminded MacLean that for all his coaching, Balsillie's act hadn't changed recently. "Because they're into bankruptcy it's hard to change that," replied MacLean, who co-hosts his own radio show on the Fan 590 and does analysis work on TV for Rogers Sportsnet.

McCown then drew the veteran executive's ire, suggesting that, in his desire to return to NHL management, "You've crossed over a line that you drew pretty clearly in the sand."

"C'mon Bob," MacLean replied. "You've been in the business long enough, that's an idiotic statement you just made. I've listened to you waffle day-to-day, and week-to-week on topics. Don't sit there and be Mr. Wonderful. Give me a break, Bob. C'mon. Seriously, Bob, you're bigger than that."

Whatever civility evaporated when McCown suggested a lot of people had lost respect for MacLean after flip-flopping. "We'll wait and see about that, okay, Bob," MacLean said. "I don't see you as the judge and jury on this, you're a long way from being the judge and jury on that. For you to make a comment on that, you're way out of line, Bud. … But it's your show and your opinion. …

"What you did is you took two hours of pot shots at me so you drive your ratings and get me on the last 10 minutes so you got a big full house. That's your game. I know you, c'mon."

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At which point, an agitated McCown shut down the interview. With MacLean gone, he said he'd decided against playing tapes of previous MacLean polemics against Balsillie, preferring to give MacLean an open platform. "I should have known better. He's never been civil before in any conversation we've ever had. He always makes it [a]personal attack and that's what he did tonight. As long as I sit in this chair, that will be the last time I have Doug MacLean on this show... He is what he is, and he is exactly what I thought he was."

Are You Ready?

Rogers Sportsnet has inked a new three-year agreement to be the Canadian broadcaster of the NFL Network's eight-game schedule this fall. The regular-season schedule features six Thursday night games, including the Buffalo Bills playing host to the New York Jets at Rogers Centre in Toronto, one Saturday night telecast and a Friday night broadcast on Christmas.

Blackout Blues

Further on our story that as many as 20 per cent of NFL games will be blacked out for local teams this season if the games do not sell out 72 hours in advance. (Last season just three teams - the Detroit Lions, St. Louis Rams and Oakland Raiders - had games blacked out, with just nine games blacked out among the three.)

Citing concerns that the economy is limiting fans from buying as many tickets as they had in the past, NFL commissioner Roger Goodell says local markets will be able to watch replays online for free, though not until after midnight. Home fans in hard-hit markets such as Detroit, Jacksonville, Oakland and St. Louis can see the delayed broadcasts on for up to 72 hours, except during Monday Night Football.

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Great, now two opportunities for Usual Suspects to see quarterback Matthew Stafford and the Detroit Lions gets waxed in New Orleans.

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