NHL will get its NBC rights fees even if lockout cancels 2012-13 season

One of the biggest differences between the last CBA negotiation in the NHL and the current faceoff between owners and players is that there's an honest-to-goodness television contract in the U.S. from which the NHL actually profits.

The NHL and NBC signed off on a 10-year, $2 billion deal in April 2011, which begins with the 2012-13 season. So there's been hope that this investment would expedite a CBA settlement and prevent a lengthy work stoppage.

NBC's commitment to the Winter Classic was seen as a pressure point; as Ben Kuzma of The Province noted this week, "putting NBC's $200 million US long-term investment in the classic at risk is the pressure point." Then there's the fact that NHL programming fills a majority of nights on NBC Sports Network, which recently had its profile raised by the Olympics.

File all of this under "wishful thinking."

No, the NHL doesn't want to lose the Winter Classic's incredible revenue stream, from ticket sales to sponsorship to a year's-worth of merchandising. But any notion that the NBC deal would pressure the League to settle is misguided — did you really think Gary Bettman and the owners wouldn't have a contingency plan in the deal, in case there's a lockout?

From agent Allan Walsh via Twitter on Wednesday:

"Key part of NHL/NBC Comcast Universal TV deal, NBC makes a $200M payment to NHL in 2012-13 even if entire season lost to lockout.

"If lockout wipes out 2012-13 NHL season, NBC makes $200M payment to league and extra year is added onto deal for no rights fee."

The $200 million payment might be a lump sum or incremental; either way, the League is getting its money from NBC even if there's no product to put on the air, according to Walsh.

Interesting that if the season is wiped out, the NHL/NBC deal would be extended to 2021-22 and that this season's payment would cover it.

We still don't think this lockout wipes out a season — this isn't the philosophical, reinventing the entire economic system debate we had back in 2004-05. But just in case … the NHL's still getting paid.