FSN and Sun announced Thursday they will only broadcast 65 of the team's 82 games this season - down from 70 locally televised games the past three seasons. If you shell out the bucks for the Center Ice package (or just hang out at Quarterdeck), you'll get 79 of the 82 games.
Looking deeper into the schedule, it doesn't look too bad. Like I said, 79 of the 82 will be available somewhere (I'll do LiveBlog! for the ones that aren't) and the games FSN aren't covering make financial sense to them.
For instance, the three games in western Canada (Dec. 11-14) won't be on, and that's probably a cost deal as much as anything else. The flip side of saving that money means Florida fans won't be able to see Mike Keenan, Sam Gagner and Roberto Luongo, unless of course, it's on Center Ice (which I think all three will be).
The local networks also have a number of blackouts because Versus has exclusivity. They can't do anything about that.
But they can't gloss over the fact they are doing fewer games than before -- and that doesn't have anything to do with Versus. It has to do with cold hard dinero, pal. The Fox family of regional broadcasters are cutting back nationwide, and unless you are the only team in the market, you're going to get cut. The truth may be that Fox/Sun are getting too big and cover too much. The Panthers are competing with the Heat, Magic, Lightning, Gators, Seminoles, high school sports and other stuff for television time.
Good thing the Panthers have 65 games as the minimum in their contract or I think folks down here would have been seeing even less of the Cats this season. That said, FSN/Sun does a terrific job of covering this team in my opinion, from the production crew to the talent of Goldie and Denis.
-- One positive of the schedule: All but one game in the opening month will be available to those with basic cable here, with the lone game not done on FSN or Versus available through Center Ice. November and December have more holes, but FSN will cover just about every game during January, February and March.
-- Single game tickets for the first chunk of the season go on sale Saturday. Feel free to visit the Panthers' official site (believe it or not, this ain't the official website) for more information and prices.