NEW YORK -- A judge refused to block the NHL from taking
control of the New York Rangers' Web site despite claims that the
league is acting like "an illegal cartel" by controlling team
U.S. District Judge Loretta A. Preska said Friday that the NHL
seemed on solid legal ground when it decided to take control of its
clubs' Web sites to strengthen the quality of its Internet
relationship with fans and advertisers.
She said in a written opinion that her conclusion was
"bolstered by the fact that MSG has shown no harm whatsoever to
consumers, especially in light of the facts that the team maintains
control over most of the content of the new Web site and fans can
still get access directly to the Rangers site through
Preska also said evidence showed that fans prefer the league's
new Internet strategy over one that left more control in the hands
of the individual clubs.
The ruling said the league had decided it was necessary to
create a league brand with centralized control of team sites to
compete with other major sports entertainment providers.
Although the judge hasn't yet heard all of the evidence in the
case, she refused to block the NHL in its efforts while the
litigation proceeds, a process that could take months.
She said it seemed unlikely that MSG would succeed in claims
contained in a September lawsuit.
In a statement, MSG promised to appeal, saying it still believed
the Rangers will be irreparably harmed if the Web site is left in
the NHL's hands.
"This decision is only one step in what will be a very long
legal process and we look forward to having the opportunity to
present the facts, which support our position," MSG said.
Earlier this year, at the start of hockey playoffs, MSG said it
increased its competitive offerings by making Rangers-branded
merchandise available through the Rangers' Web site rather than a
catalog, and by making games available to subscribers on its Web
The NHL forced MSG to withdraw the plan by imposing a
$100,000-per-day penalty. When the company refused to pay the
fines, the league withheld $200,000 from third-party payments due
MSG, MSG said.