Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Area Fans to Get Limited View of Nhl

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Area Fans to Get Limited View of Nhl

Article excerpt

It's time for another round of icing between the National Hockey League and its fans.

Five years ago, most NHL enthusiasts were frozen out when the league sent its national television package to SportsChannel America, a cable network that offered the league more money than the competitors but was available in only a small fraction of the nation's homes. That gap was filled last season when the league moved its games to ESPN, which is widely available.

This season the league, with much fanfare, contracted for many of its games to be shown on ESPN2, a spinoff of ESPN. But, at least in the St. Louis market, not many cable systems appear to be ready to pick up the new service.

Results of a telephone survey Thursday of many of the area's largest operators showed that none plans to be on-line when the network signs on next month. Executives at American Cablevision, Continental, Crown, St. Louis Tele-Communications and United Video Cablevision all said their systems don't plan to carry ESPN2, at least in the foreseeable future. Cost and lack of available channels were two primary reasons cited.

St. Louis TCI operations manager Anthony Pope's comments were representative of the group. "We're very interested," he said. "`However, we have not negotiated a contract. I can't see it coming on immediately. We could possibly see it on after the first of the year."

Continental Cable operations manager Kevin Shelton said, "It's still a possibility. We've been looking at it like a few other different channels."

The best advice for those who want their cable system to pick up the service is to start dialing the telephone or writing letters to the cable officials. That approach had some effect in the past, when many local outlets added SportsChannel America.

Even without ESPN2, though, local viewers won't be completely iced from national TV coverage of the NHL as was the case in the past. ESPN, available on most local cable systems, plans to carry 26 regular-season games and up to 37 playoff games, including the entire final round. …

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