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Give the game to the fans

As a lifelong hockey fan, I've taken my share of blows from the follies of nationwide NHL coverage in the U.S.

The final straw came with NBC forbidding the Pittsburgh Penguins from showing NBC-exclusive broadcasts on their screen outside the arena, which became very popular in last year's playoff run.

Not only was this practice permitted by the network last season, it was often ballyhooed on air as an example of the infectious and fun atmosphere of a hockey game, even for people who were just watching it together.

Apparently, in the time since, corporate bean-counters realized that a few thousand extra TV sets could be tuned into their broadcast and this could possibly boost their numbers, or whatever they are calculating in this new media age.

While this situation is quite similar to a recent controversy where the NFL attempted to block churches from showing games, the NFL backed down when the media jumped on the story.

In the US, hockey fans have no such pull. I'm very disappointed that the NHL hasn't attempted to remedy this for the fans of Pittsburgh and other cities that may wish to follow suit.

The league appears content to allow NBC to trample on a great community activity that actually drew interest in the game among non-fans.

Sure, people can go to bars or restaurants to watch the game in a smaller scale group atmosphere, but the beauty of the group gatherings was the game-like atmosphere it created. Not only did this generate new fans for NBC's televised games, but it enticed many to actually spend money on a hockey ticket when they otherwise would not.

And people wonder why our sport struggles in so many U.S. markets...

Victoria Summerfield, Indiana, Pa.


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