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Fox Helps Nhl Bridge Gap With Fans

Mike Bruton Knight-Ridder Newspapers

The Fox network has been cruising through NHL cities in recent days filming promotional spots with some of the league’s best players.

The Fox promotional tour may be a good antidote for any rancor left from the 103-day NHL lockout, but that wasn’t the intent.

These spots, which are being paid for by the network over and above the cost of broadcast rights, were planned for airing before the lockout occurred. Given the current owner-player climate in professional sports these days, Fox’s intentions could be easily misunderstood.

But when the network came through to get promos of Philadelphia Flyers Eric Lindros, Ron Hextall, Mikael Renberg and Patrik Juhlin this week, the players cooperated freely and seemed to enjoy the work despite the numerous takes required to get things just right.

Fox’s intent was to make these messages lighthearted and humorous, to help viewers see the players as everyday guys. With many sports fans angry at baseball players and owners, the NHL guys were more than happy to interact with the fans this way.

“I think it’s good for the league when they can get players to do some things,” said Hextall. “The fans can relate. I think it’s good for hockey.”

Because of Fox’s commitment, hockey will be aired on network television for the first time since 1975, when NBC last carried it.

In April, Fox will broadcast regional games each Sunday afternoon, putting on a total of 28 games.The promos will start running in the next few days.

“It brings us in the public view,” Hextall said. “It eases the pain the fans had for us. Obviously, they were frustrated with us and the owners. It can help mend fences.”

The lockout ended Jan. 14 and, for once, hockey players could say they were glad their sport does not share the spotlight with football, baseball and basketball.

“I think that maybe baseball had something to do with it,” Hextall said. “People were mad at us and the baseball players. Now, the hockey players aren’t such bad guys. Maybe we’re overshadowed somewhat by the baseball. I think, for us, that’s pretty good.”

Radio days continue

Earlier this week, CBS and the NFL announced the signing of a four-year contract for the network radio rights to regular-season and postseason games, beginning in the 1995 season.

The new deal covers rights to a 53-game package, including 41 regular-season games (17 Monday night games, 18 Sunday and Thursday night games, four Saturday games) and a dozen playoff games.

Robert P. Kipperman, vice president and general manager of CBS Radio, said the network has been the radio home of NFL games the last 17 years, and CBS was delighted to extend that relationship. “We value our NFL partners and look forward to four successful years under the provisions of the contract,” he said.

Barros’ moment

If one subscribes to the axiom of the late Andy Warhol, Philadelphia 76ers point guard Dana Barros is having his 15 minutes of fame.

Having his best season as a professional with a 20.7 scoring average, the 5-foot-9 guard was selected to the All-Star team for the first time.

And Sunday, Barros will be profiled on the NBA’s “Inside Stuff,” and he will talk about how coach John Lucas played such an influential role in his improvement as a player.

Norman’s dream

Greg Norman, a strong advocate for a worldwide professional golf tour, refuses to give up on his vision, even though the PGA has all but killed the idea.

“It will happen,” Norman said.

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