Is Comcast Subsidizing The NHL Lockout?

If you were perceiving a lack of hockey in your life, it’s probably not your imagination. The NHL season never got started because of an owner-initiated lockout. But while hockey players and the thousands of other people who would be making a living off the games are sitting around repeatedly watching Slap Shot, the league is still getting all the money Comcast promised for broadcast rights.

The Philadelphia Inquirer has confirmed that Comcast’s NBC Sports Group will pay the full $180 million it owes the NHL for the rights to air games this season, whether or not a single puck ever drops.

While that’s only a fraction of the money the league would stand to lose from a fully canceled season, it does have to ease the pain somewhat.

“One wonders how resolute the NHL would be in its negotiating if it didn’t have the $180 million guarantee in its back pocket,” writes the Inquirer’s Sam Carchidi.

Comcast, which (via Comcast Spectacor) also happens to own the Philadelphia Flyers, says there is a condition built into its 10-year deal with the NHL that gives the broadcaster a free year at the end of the deal if a lockout occurs.

But as Carchidi points out, “Theoretically, the 11th year would be worth more than $180 million, so NBC would seem to be gaining in the ‘trade-off’ and paying for the first year even if all games are canceled.”

There are still faint hopes that the two sides will hammer out a deal this week, allowing the league to get in a full season. If the impasse continues beyond this weekend, there will not be sufficient time to squeeze in training and all 82 games.