Sept 5, (Reuters) - NBC executives are hoping that the National Hockey League and its players union reach a new labor agreement and avoid a lockout that could leave the network scrambling to find a replacement for one of its sports programming mainstays.I haven't seen anything official, but you have to wonder if there is a alternative plan? I know I enjoyed watching some of the AHL playoff games this past June, when the Stanley Cup games were over and those minor league hockey games did manage to fill the hockey void. Sometimes you wonder if the owners have thought this out.
Hockey is a linchpin of NBC Sports programming - the network signed a new $2 billion, 10-year contract with the league last year. A strike or delay in the upcoming NHL season would throw cold water on the momentum it built up from the London Olympics, which nightly averaged 31.3 million viewers for the network.
Labor talks between the NHL and the union representing its players broke down last week over economic issues such as revenue sharing. The league's owners have said they would lock out players if a deal is not reached by a Sept. 15 deadline. As of Wednesday afternoon, talks between the two sides had not yet resumed.
The worst case scenario for Comcast-owned NBC, which holds the exclusive national broadcast rights to NHL games, is for the entire upcoming season to be canceled. That's not without precedent. The NHL and its players union scrapped the entire 2004-05 season after failing to achieve a labor deal.
A better, but not ideal, scenario for NBC would be a delay to the NHL season, similar to what happened to the National Basketball Association last year. The first regular season NHL game is scheduled for Oct. 11, but exhibition games start about two weeks earlier.
Bill Daly: "It is obviously becoming increasingly unlikely that NHL training camps will start on time."@sbjlizmullen @sbjsbd
— Chris Botta (@ChrisBottaNHL) September 5, 2012