When must-see TV and NHL collide

11/10/2006 - NHL

The NHL, and hockey in general, needs more national exposure in the United States.

That doesn't necessarily mean more widespread availability of televised games, because one of the problems is highlighted by the fact that between them, Peyton Manning and LeBron James are in approximately 63.2 percent of all commercials.

There are ways to get the NHL more airtime, and some of them could be pitching for getting hockey plotlines and specialty episodes on existing network series.


" "Dancing with the Stars": Eric Lindros, Mike Modano, Marty Turco, Matthew Barnaby, Jussi Jokinen and Mathias Tjarnqvist temporarily are paired up with Dallas Cowboys cheerleaders for a ballroom competition. Selected viewers voting online get a free calendar.

Part of the suspense is anticipation that if Barnaby falls during his mambo, he might writhe and lead viewers to think he has a compound leg fracture before he gets up and walks off, leading a judge to snort, "Unsportsmanlike conduct."

If it goes to a shootout, bet on Jokinen.

" "Las Vegas": Big Ed and Delinda Deline attend the Kings' annual preseason appearance at the MGM Grand, and Ed later makes sure everyone at his casino knows Anze Kopitar is too young to be allowed to drink or wager.

" "Two and a Half Men": Charlie Harper joins the Ducks, skates with Andy McDonald and Teemu Selanne, and the line is called ... But Harper repeatedly has to point out that he was not the original coach of the Mighty Ducks. That's his brother.

" "Deal or No Deal": Howie Mandel, sans hair nowadays, grills interim Flyers general manager Paul Holmgren about what he might accept in trade for Peter Forsberg, who of course might be taking his skates, sticks and ABBA compact discs back to Sweden after this season. Then again, he might not. When Holmgren stalls, Mandel taunts him by asking whether they should be asking Colin Campbell.

" "Friday Night Lights": The Panthers attend a Central League game between the Odessa Jackalopes and the Austin Ice Bats. Two Ice Bats defensemen are hurt in a pileup, prompting coach Bill McDonald to turn and ask of the young football players, "Hey, can any of you guys skate backward?"

" "CSI: Miami": Florida coach and general manager Jacques Martin brings in Horatio Crane, Calleigh Duquesne and Eric Delko to investigate the Panthers' penalty killing. Duquesne tells Martin she doesn't need a microscope to know the Panthers need to pressure the puck more. By the end of the episode, Crane says, "You never should have traded Roberto Luongo." And Martin responds, "No s---, Sherlock."

" "The Biggest Loser": Although the Blues' Keith Tkachuk no longer is being mistaken for a sumo wrestler, he and teammate Bill Guerin go on with host Caroline Rhea, work with personal trainers, and attempt to lose Doug Weight.

" "Shark": It finally comes out that Sebastian Stark, the ruthless Los Angeles district attorney, is a Boston fan who wants to prosecute the Bruins for trading Joe Thornton to San Jose.

" "Emeril Live": Emeril Lagasse allows the Rangers to join the studio audience, listen to "Doc" Gibbs' great band and watch Emeril make chocolate cookie peanut butter banana pie. And just as Jaromir Jagr takes a bite, Emeril says, "You gotta kick it up another notch!"

" "Men in Trees": In a merging of film and television, Anne Heche's character, Alaska-based relationship coach Marin Frist, meets and begins dating Sheriff John Biebe, the star of the "Mystery, Alaska," town hockey team. Steve Levy and Barry Melrose again play themselves. When Biebe's teammate, Skank Marden, lists the two things he likes to do in life (and one of them is playing hockey), the censors get nervous.

" "Antiques Roadshow": Experts appraise Chris Chelios, Scott Mellanby, Eric Belanger, Ed Belfour and Gary Roberts to determine whether they're worth what they're being paid in the new salary-cap era.

" "Grey's Anatomy": Cristina Yang (played by Canadian Sandra Oh) and Meredith Grey take a break from their Seattle hospital duties to drive north, cross the border and take in a Canucks game. They meet the Sedin twins in the Shark Club across the street and spend the rest of the episode trying to tell them apart.

" "My Name Is Earl": In his continuing quest to correct everything he has done wrong in his life, Earl comes to No. 66 on his list, journeys to Pittsburgh, meets Mario Lemieux at Primanti Brothers and apologizes for heckling him that night in Philadelphia. But when Mario isn't looking, Earl steals the fries out of Mario's sandwich.

" "All My Children": Palmer Cortlandt, Adam Chandler and Erica Kane bury the hatchet long enough to go in as partners and land an NHL expansion franchise for Pine Valley. Half the players turn out to be children the principals didn't know they had, and Erica hires her sixth ex-husband as coach.

Hey, that's no more of a soap opera than the Flyers.

Terry Frei is a regular contributor to ESPN.com. He is the author of "Third Down and a War to Go" and "Horns, Hogs, and Nixon Coming."