August 24, 2005 -- AS of now, Cablevision customers will not be able to watch the Rangers' season opener against the Flyers on Oct. 5 because of the NHL's new agreement with the Outdoor Life Network to be the league's national cable carrier.
While the three sides plan on further discussing the issue, the NHL's board agreed to terms that black out OLN's exclusive game coverage on Cablevision. No other New York cable or satellite provider is affected.
This means, unless something changes, Cablevision subscribers â€” even ones with OLN â€” will be unable to watch Rangers, Devils or Islanders games when they are on the NHL's new national partner.
Cablevision's OLN subscribers also will be prevented from viewing the 78 national regular-season games plus Stanley Cup playoff games and the first two games of the Finals.
Why? Why else? Money.
On 90 percent of the country's cable systems, OLN is on basic cable, according to the network.
But Cablevision's 3 million homes are offered OLN as part of the sport tier package, which costs $4.95 per month.
In an effort to force Cablevision to move OLN to basic, the NHL agreed to allow its games to be pawns. In choosing to allow the blackouts, it has made it impossible for 3 million viewers to see some of its games.
"We are committed to the NHL. We hope to resolve this issue in the near term," an OLN spokesperson said, while confirming the Cablevision blackout.
After canceling a season, the NHL's attitude seems to want fans to trust it.
"We drop the puck on Oct. 5," an NHL spokesman said. "Fans shouldn't be overly concerned at this point."
Rangers, Islanders and Devils fans will still be able to see the majority of their team's games on MSG and FSNY. But OLN figures to take the most attractive matchups. Each team can be on OLN eight times during the regular season.
"Cablevision carries two regional sports networks, MSG Network and FSN New York, that are home to our three local hockey teams and feature hundreds of games, and we have every intention of delivering the games that will appear on OLN to our customers as well," a Cablevision spokesman said.
The NHL decided to go with OLN over ESPN for reportedly $65 million this year and $70 million next year. ESPN chose not to match the offer.
While the deal has put OLN on the map â€” it is now making overtures for major-league baseball (a spokesperson declined comment) â€” it is unlikely that the new agreement will increase NHL viewership, which has lagged behind the other three major sports.
OLN GIG TO EMRICK
In a move that will instantly give OLN NHL's coverage some credibility, the network is expected to make Mike (Doc) Emrick its lead play-by-player, sources said.
Emrick will also be the lead voice on NBC's coverage of the NHL, though the network has not officially announced its announcer teams.
Reached at home, Emrick declined comment.
"We are talking to all the top hockey talent," an OLN spokesperson said. "We hope to make announcements soon."
Emrick will still be the Devils' play-by-player. John Davidson, who will be Emrick's NBC partner, is also negotiating with OLN.http://www.nypost.com/sports/27301.htm