EDIT: Reminder (thank you, Trevor): The Richard Durrett Benefit Concert is tonight at Billy Bob's. There’s a lot of great music and auction items. This will be a great event for a great man's family.
You may remember hearing about the ongoing antitrust lawsuit against the NHL, MLB, DirecTV and Comcast. Back in August, a U.S. district judge ruled that MLB (and the others above) are not eligible for an exemption from existing antitrust laws, paving the way for the case to head to court. The quote from the judge that sticks out the most is probably "consciously depriving consumers of out-of-market games they would prefer." In other words, the judge (through not completely flawless reasoning, in my opinion) has decided that the question of collusion is a valid one, so we'll continue to see how things shake out.
On the other side of the longest undefended border in the world between two countries, here's a story that won't get huge play in the U.S.: Rogers has announced that they are heading in the opposite direction, drastically reducing the amount of blackouts for Canadian viewers on GameCentre Live. Via THN:
In previous years, a Maple Leafs fan in the Toronto area or a Canucks fan in Vancouver couldn't log onto GameCentre Live and watch a game that was being televised locally. Now, any Rogers national or regional broadcast is available on that fan's computer, tablet or smart phone—the only exceptions being games controlled regionally by TSN.
Rogers, entering the first of a 12-year exclusive Canadian national television rights deal with the NHL, said the changes would make over 50 per cent more games available to watch online. In addition to "Hockey Night In Canada," all Stanley Cup playoff games, including the final, will be accessible on GameCentre Live.
Can you imagine being able to pay to watch the Stanley Cup Playoffs on a mobile device, even if the game is happening twenty minutes away from you and you don't have a cable TV subscription? Wow.
It still boggles the mind that the NHL can't find a way to get their product out into the hands of more people on more media, but I suppose that as long as the country is still hijacked by essentially non-competitive cable internet services in most regions, we can't really be too shocked at how difficult it is to pay somebody to watch a hockey game.
Mark Messier seems to agree with the necessity of putting the game in people's hands as well:
"I can only imagine what it would've been like in the '80s to have this accessibility and for more people to have seen Wayne Gretzky for those 10 years in Edmonton in his glory scoring 215 points," Messier said.
So maybe the solution is just to have Benn and Seguin break a ton of scoring records this year, thereby making consumer demand skyrocket and forcing the hand of the NHL and its rights holders to get its product into the hands of the clamoring fans. I'm on board with that idea.
Of course we have to remember that for now, the game is in much higher demand in Canada than it is down here; and Rogers' recent purchase means that they have the ability to make these sorts of decisions on a level that most local U.S. media companies can't, especially when you consider that the rights holders for NHL broadcasts are (understandably) adamant that they should be the ones controlling NHL telecasts online. And that would be all fine and dandy if there were an easy way to access those games without buying an expensive cable or satellite TV package just to be able to watch one three-hour program three times a week.
A la carte programming seems like a great opportunity waiting to happen. One can picture a scenario where the NHL partners with all its right holders to split revenue from those a la carte broadcasts, but then the picture gets dicey when you realize that the NHL would surely insist on those broadcasts being provided through their existing GameCenter Live app, and that complicates any talk of shared revenue pretty significantly. Believe it or not, the NHL isn't exactly thrilled about the idea of giving rights holders like FSSW a bigger piece of their GameCenter Live pie, especially as the NHL's popularity continues to rise. And a lot of those rights holders are controlled by larger conglomerates like Comcast who would practically vomit with rage at the thought of NHL fans having a means to watch the NHL games they want without subscribing to one of their own cable TV services.
The blackout question is one that we're probably at least a few years away from seeing resolved--although the NBC Sports app is taking baby steps in this regard--but one thing that seems certain is that I'll continue getting really annoyed a few times a year when I realize that I have to go to Chili's or some stupid bar just to watch a hockey game. Although I guess I'd rather tip my server a few bucks while I watch a game with food than send $5 straight to Gary Bettman or Jack Donaghy.
* * * * *
Monday is named after the moon, which was one of the seven medieval planets. Here are some medieval links. No, these are hockey links, actually.
It was three years ago yesterday that the plane carrying the Lokomotiv Yaroslavl hockey team crashed, killing nearly all aboard. The Stars would wear Karlis Skrastins' #37 on their helmets in his memory that season. Here's a look back at the night Dallas took a moment to honor Karlis's memory and announce a trust fund for his family. [NHL.com]
Mike Modano went ahead and owned Pierre Lebrun on Twitter Sunday. Also, since when do ESPN reporters wear team jerseys while covering a game? My old journalism professor would have been very disappointed if I had done that. [Twitter]
Jason Spezza talked some more about what makes Dallas cool on the radio last week, in case you missed it. [DMN]
Tyler Seguin and Jamie Benn capped off their summer with a sled hockey game with children from the Multiple Sclerosis Society and the Southwest Wheelchair Athletic Association. Ali Lucia and the Stars video team have footage, and it's more or less the best. 1:40 is my favorite. [Stars]
Jamie Benn is ready for the season to start. He also mentioned that the team has "taken a 180" ever since Jim Nill got into town. Remember, though, there's some correlation along with causation involved with Nill's arrival and the team's upward swing. [Stars]
Modano also says that Tyler Seguin (and Jamie Benn) could push 100 points this season, which would break his franchise record of 93. He would be okay with that. [DMN]
Two teams who have played in an outdoor game before will play in another outdoor game this year, but this time in a different venue. Nationals Park has been announced as the site for the 2015 Winter Classic between Chicago and Washington. [Washington Post]
Second City Hockey has come to the conclusion that Corey Crawford plays better if the team in front of him plays better defense. [SCH]
Here's a timely writeup on Oliver Ekman-Larsson, who recently placed 12th among an NHL.com poll of top defensemen. I hear offensively-gifted Swedish defenders can be a really good asset. [The Hockey Writers]
Also from THW, meet the new Vancouver coaching staff who you may remember from such films as the old Dallas Stars coaching staff. [The Hockey Writers]
Some news on the player tracking front: it sounds like camera-based tracking systems like Sport Vu are having trouble distinguishing players when they're all bunched up in a corner. The solution? Put a chip in (or, hopefully, on) every player. Well, that's just great. Next thing you know, car insurance companies are going to start putting tracking chips in your car. [Habs EOTP]
Cam Ward is surprised to be headed to training camp with Carolina, as Ron Francis apparently told him the team would try to trade him at the beginning of the summer. That never happened, but hey, if Luongo's contract was tradeable, anyone's tradeable! [Pro Hockey Talk]
Lastly, check out the absurdly slick CHL tournament goal by Liam Reddox in the link from Puck Daddy. It's almost as impressive as Modano's midair one-timer. (2:30 mark of the below video, but come on, you know you want to watch the whole thing.) [Puck Daddy]