Puck Daddy - NHL

Just in from Versus: Last night's Philadelphia Flyers/Washington Capitals game set a new regular-season ratings record for the network's NHL coverage: a 0.6 national rating.

That's up from the 0.5 the Capitals and Boston Bruins did on opening night. But no, the Capitals would have been a lousy draw for the Winter Classic, right NBC?

The Capitals/Bruins game still holds the title for "most watched" in Versus history based on total viewers (501,000). Viewership totals for last night's game will likely become available on Thursday.

Overall, the network says that ratings are up 33 percent for the NHL on Versus so far this season, and the viewership totals are up 15 percent -- and that's including some clunkers, like the Florida Panthers and Chicago Blackhawks from Finland.

What's that you say? The elephant in the room? Versus and DirecTV are still in negotiations and there's nothing new to report ... other than that we keep getting letters like this one from Puck Buddy Adrian R., a disgruntled DirecTV subscriber:

"If DTV wants to stick Versus on the regional sports tier, it would be in the NHL's best interest to make sure Versus games are included in the Center Ice package from now on. Center Ice costs $149, but virtually all the games that aren't on Versus are on the regional sports networks. I can buy the regional sports pack for $12 a month, and if Versus ends up there, I'll have no incentive to buy Center Ice. I'll just buy the sports pack for virtually the same annual price.

"It blows my mind that the NHL isn't doing more to settle this. It's their biggest U.S. broadcast partner."

You're not alone, sir. Versus getting ratings without DirecTV, and DirecTV being content to satisfy angry hockey fans with concessions like free services, are going to keep this thing at a stalemate for the foreseeable future.

UPDATE: Eric McErlain checked in and said that "all NHL games out of your area -- and all major league sports for that matter -- are blacked out on the DTV sports tier." And DirecTV says the same thing on its site.

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