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NHL future looking bright: Experts

High-definition television images are luring more American eyeballs toprofessional hockey and invigorating the NHL’s prospects in the U.S.,say leading sports industry experts.

High-definition television images are luring more American eyeballs to professional hockey and invigorating the NHL’s prospects in the U.S., say leading sports industry experts.

“HDTV will have a greater impact on hockey than any other sport,” says Matthew Pace, a lawyer with prominent sports law firm Herrick, Feinstein in New York. “You can follow the puck much easier (on HDTV broadcasts). The action is clearer. I think the television future of the NHL is bright.”

The holy grail of professional sports — routine access to 115 million American television households — has long eluded the NHL despite efforts dating back to the now infamous glowing blue puck of the 1990s.

While the NHL has built a national U.S. footprint that includes hockey-tepid cities across the sunbelt, major U.S. broadcast deals still haven’t come.

And without the billions of dollars in revenues that come with a major TV deal, the league is left to contend with financial basket cases. But there is hope as hockey viewership this season is up another 16 per cent from the same point last season.

“We see that as HD gets more prevalent and more people get it hooked up ... our growth in hockey has been amazing,” says Marc Fein, executive vice-president of programming with Versus.

 
 
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