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NHL Network prepares U.S. launch

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By Keith Barnes
Tuesday, Oct. 9, 2007

If anyone in the United States wanted to know what it's like to feed their hockey hunger Canadian-style, they're about to get their chance.

Throughout this month, the 24-hour NHL Network will launch on several communications outlets, including Comcast, DirectTV and Dish Network. It will be available in approximately 75 million homes throughout the country.

About the only problem is that very few of the systems know when, exactly, the NHL Network will be available in their plans.

DirectTV representative Robert Mercer said Monday that it should begin carrying the NHL Network by the end of the month, but an exact date has not been determined. The satellite provider also hasn't determined if it will be included in its premium package like the NFL Network and Big 10 Network or if it will be included with a basic package.

Dish Network spokesperson Melissa Morris said the satellite company has targeted Oct. 17 as its initial availability date, but with a caveat. It will only be available in high definition, so customers that don't have HDTV will have to upgrade their equipment and programming package.

Comcast representative Jenny Moyer was unable to specify the cable company's launch date, if it would be part of its extended sports programming package, or if NHL Network shows would be available in its On Demand categories. Comcast also could have separate launch dates for its individual markets.

In addition to 50 NHL games, the NHL Network will fill in the remainder of its programming schedule with its cornerstone show, "NHL On The Fly," which features classic games, news conferences and pregame and postgame reports from around the league.

It is undetermined how many times the Penguins will be featured on NHL Network this season. But fans in Pittsburgh won't see any Penguins games on NHL Network because of broadcast restrictions. Any Penguins games that are slated to be televised locally by FSN Pittsburgh will be blacked out in the Pittsburgh market on the NHL Network.

Time Warner Cable was the first to launch the U.S. version of NHL Network on Oct. 1. The network first debuted in Canada in 2001.

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