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Free NHL Center Ice probably won't happen

The NHL is back, and they'll likely be doing some things to make amends with their fans. The NHL Center Ice pay-per-view package is probably not going to be free of charge, though.

Bruce Bennett

Welcome back, hockey! Or at least, welcome back in 10-13 days from now. A reminder that Puck the Media is your home for all the NHL TV news you can stand to read, and the next couple weeks will be busy.

Before that, however, a few words about the NHL's Center Ice package, which many people have been demanding the league offer up for free for the 48-game or 50-game per team season. Fans are obviously angry about this lockout, which has cost us nearly half of the typical 82-game season. They see free Center Ice as a logical give back from the league to the people who suffered the most, the workers in the arenas who got paid by the game and those who owned businesses around the rinks fans.

A nice thought, but it's not possible, you guys. The NHL doesn't have full ownership of the package. A company called inDEMAND -- which runs similar packages for the NBA, MLB and MLS -- does. They would need the approval of literally every cable and satellite company that runs the package -- everyone from DIRECTV to Comcast -- to make it happen, as inDEMAND and the cable companies all want a piece of those pricey subscriber fees. A discount? Perhaps. A free season of Center Ice? Logistically impossible.

The NHL does, however, have more power over its GameCenter Live application, which could mean a deeply discounted, if not free, season of that. I imagine the league probably doesn't want to make Center Ice a completely useless option for fans with access to a computer (there are many of those, I hear!) so they might not make it free, but a deep discount would make sense.

Hopefully, this ends the discussion of why the league won't just let you have Center Ice for free all 2013 season long. I'm sure those "FREE PREVIEW" weeks and GameCenter Live will be frequent enough to make it almost not a concern. Please don't shoot the messenger, and welcome back, hockey.