The NHL is back

As usual, the National Hockey League has its problems. The Phoenix Coyotes are bankrupt and a judge is trying to sort out a mess in which the league is trying to stop the only bidder willing to buy the team, because he wants to move it to Hamilton, Ontario. All of this led to the resignation of Phoenix head coach Wayne Gretzky in the middle of training camp. The players' union fired its executive director, with a number of players very unhappy with both the firing and its circumstances. There are already some rumblings about another lockout after the 2010-11 season -- because the first one was such a success!

Chicago Blackhawks forward Patrick Kane and his cousin were arrested for punching a cab driver because their fare was $13.80 and the cab driver didn't have the 20 cents in change. (They pleaded guilty to non-criminal charges and apologized to the driver.) DirecTV has dropped Versus in a dispute with owner Comcast over the fees charged to carry the network. And the NHL will once again shut down for two weeks to send players to Vancouver for the Winter Olympics (possibly for the last time depending on how those labor/management issues shake out). So the schedule is compressed, with more instances of teams playing three games in four nights, which surely will lead to more injuries than usual.

But put all of that aside for now. The regular season begins Thursday night. As a public service here's a schedule of the games being nationally televised in the United States this week -- though, with the much-improved ratings last season, particularly in the Stanley Cup Finals, perhaps you already have your DVRs programmed. Hey, so the news isn't all bad!

If you still have Versus, there's a doubleheader Thursday starting at 7 pm ET. Alexander Ovechkin and the Washington Capitals are in Boston, followed by San Jose at Colorado at 10 pm ET. On Friday the network will carry two games being played overseas (although, unlike recent years, the games in Europe aren't the league's season openers): Florida vs. Chicago in Helsinki, Finland at noon ET, and Detroit vs. St. Louis at 3 pm ET from Stockholm, Sweden.

Friday evening the NHL Network takes over, with the New York Rangers against Sidney Crosby and the defending Stanley Cup champion Pittsburgh Penguins at 7:30 pm ET. The NHL Network will have the second Florida-Chicago and Detroit-St. Louis games from Europe starting at noon ET on Saturday, and will once again pick up CBC's Hockey Night In Canada coverage -- including pre- and post-game shows -- for US viewers every Saturday night at 6:30 pm ET (this week they'll carry Toronto at Washington and Calgary at Edmonton).

I would be remiss if I didn't mention that The Hockey News has predicted that the Philadelphia Flyers will win the Stanley Cup this season. I'm not willing to make that prediction, but a boy can dream, can't he?

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