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Hayley Wickenheiser's debut in a Finnish professional men's league seems like a natural for television.

After all, the Canadian star will be the first female who isn't a goalie to play in a men's professional league. And the story has been receiving plenty of attention in Canada and internationally.

But TSN turned down Wickenheiser's inaugural game tomorrow with Kirkkonummen Salamat of the second division. Instead, TSN's sister network, WTSN (The Women's Sports Network), will televise the Kirkkonummen Salamat game against Kettera at 1 p.m. EST. The problem is, few Canadians will be able to see it, because the distribution of WTSN, a digital channel, is small.

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Digital television is available in about two million Canadian homes through cable set-top boxes or direct-to-home systems (satellite dishes). Of that two million, significantly fewer subscribe to WTSN. TSN, by comparison, is in eight million homes.

TSN is taking a pass on Wickenheiser for several reasons.

The Finnish-produced telecast will be announced in English, which could present a problem, although the broadcast team seems competent. Penppi Lindigren, who does play by play for national games in Finland, will call the game. Mike Stapleton, who played for Atlanta in the National Hockey League two seasons ago, will provide colour commentary. In Toronto, Vic Rauter will anchor an intermission studio show.

Still, WTSN isn't taking any chances. It will tape delay the feed by four hours to allow it time to edit, if required.

Canadian interest in the game doesn't exist, except for the fact that Wickenheiser is playing.

The problem is, no one knows how many shifts she will take or how many minutes she will play.

But the main reason TSN is giving WTSN exclusivity to the game is to market the digital channel in the hope of increasing its distribution.

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A TSN executive said, "If we don't put events of this magnitude on digital channels, the growth won't be there."

A TSN spokesperson said yesterday afternoon that the network had received no calls or e-mails complaining about the coverage being limited to WTSN.

Wickenheiser will receive plenty of highlight coverage tomorrow. Hockey Night in Canadahas sent Scott Oake to Finland to report on the game and to interviewWickenheiser. TSN's SportsCentre, from 6 p.m. to 7 p.m. EST, will televise extensive footage, as will other sportscasts. Senators and TV If the bankruptcy-protected Ottawa Senators are bought and moved to the United States, the impact on Canadian television would be significant.

For starters, Rogers Sportsnet, TSN and the CBC would lose an important asset. The Senators top Sportsnet's Eastern region schedule during the winter. The Sens are also one of six Canadian clubs that TSN features on its national telecasts. At the CBC, Hockey Night in Canada has drawn unusually large audiences, particularly in the playoffs, because of the rivalry between the Toronto Maple Leafs and Ottawa.

But some would benefit from the Senators leaving. Toronto would be able to expand its broadcast region into Ottawa's existing territory. As it is, Leaf games and the club's digital channel Leafs TV are not allowed on the air in Eastern Ontario. The Montreal Canadiens would probably also have access to the Eastern Ontario region.

Without the Senators as part of the six-club Canadian package, Hockey Night in Canada's NHL rights fees could be reduced, although some industry sources said they think the total number of Canadian clubs would have to shrink to four before the league would be required to cut its fees. Networks ace deal TSN and CTV yesterday announced a new four-year contract with the PGA Tour, which will provide 270 hours of live coverage from 41 events this year.

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As part of the deal, TSN and CTV own exclusive rights to the Bell Canadian Open, AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am, the Players Championship, the Tour Championship and the four World Golf championships. The rights also include the first two rounds of the Masters and complete coverage of the U.S. Open, British Open, PGA Championship, the Presidents Cup and the Telus Skins Game. TSN president Keith Pelley called the deal "unprecedented in Canadian sports broadcasting." Advantage to ABC You could argue that the NHL's decision to announce tomorrow at 1:40 p.m. EST the starting lineups for the Feb. 2 all-star game is another example of the league favouring the U.S. broadcaster over its Canadian counterpart.

The announcement is timed for the first intermission of ABC's three regional NHL broadcasts, which start at 1 p.m. The CBC, on the other hand, will be required to interrupt its Canada Cup curling coverage to announce the lineups.

Still, with the CBC' sHockey Night in Canadatelevising prime-time games and ABC sticking to the afternoon time slot, it's impossible to find a time favourable to both. If the league chose to wait untilHockey Night's pregame show, ABC's hockey telecast would miss the story altogether.

ABC will use a three-man broadcast team for its NHL telecasts this season. Studio analyst John Davidson, whose strength is game analysis, is joining announcer Gary Thorne and analyst Bill Clement in the booth. ESPN's Barry Melrose replaces Davidson in the studio.

CTV's broadcasts of the Canadian figure skating championships this weekend are starting with a "rant" similar to the Molson "I am Canadian" commercial. Members of the Canadian national team will rant about "misconceptions in figure skating" in a spot titled "I'm At Canadians." Tonight, CTV will televise the men's short program and pairs free starting at 8 p.m. EST.

Despite the appalling play of the Toronto Raptors (a .229 winning percentage), Sportsnet's ratings for regional telecasts are down only marginally from last season, from 88,000 viewers a game at this point in 2002 to 82,000 this season.

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Leafs TV, the club-owned digital channel, has bought the rights to 25 U.S. college hockey games. The first is tonight at 7:30 p.m. EST, between Alaska Fairbanks and Michigan State. truth@globeandmail.ca

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