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If Golden Knights aren’t on Cox Cable, team should be embarrassed

First, a disclaimer: It might work out.

There might be an 11th-hour deal.

Every word from this sentence on might prove meaningless.

Joe from Henderson and Mary from Summerlin and Marty from Centennial Hills might sit down on their respective couches Friday night, turn on their televisions with Cox Cable as the provider and switch to a channel showing the Vegas Golden Knights.

Which would be a fitting and terrific conclusion.

But if it doesn’t, one word describes the current TV deal for the Knights: Embarrassing.

OK, another: Inexcusable.

OK, a third: Absurd.

We are 36 hours from the Knights playing at Dallas and officially bringing Las Vegas its first major league professional sports franchise, and as things stood Wednesday afternoon, the valley’s largest cable provider still doesn’t offer a channel that will show the team.

And that blame lies directly at the skates of the Knights, because that’s where fans will rightly place it.

They’re all that matters when you’re an NHL team needing support as you navigate expansion waters of guaranteed losing for the immediate future.

This thing was backward from the outset.

When the Knights chose to partner with AT&T SportsNet Rocky Mountain, they knew Cox didn’t offer the channel. In their bizarre and somewhat tiring fascination with becoming the Team of the Rocky Mountains, the Knights forgot first and foremost about being the Team of Las Vegas.

Bill Foley is a team owner with a deep love of all things Montana, but his team should have done everything possible to ensure this initial TV deal included a provider that has a channel on both Cox and DirectTV, the latter of which offers AT&T SportsNet Rocky Mountain. CenturyLink will also show the games.

It’s not Cox.

It’s not close.

“We really didn’t have much serious interest from people like Cox or Fox Sports West,” Foley said. “We had one other option, but it wasn’t close financially when compared to AT&T SportsNet.

“Sure, I’m concerned. I have some angst. We need to get this done. I know (AT&T SportsNet and Cox) continue to talk. Those at AT&T are intelligent people and I would urge them to please get something done with Cox. I’m still hopeful.

“But it’s really out of our hands. We’re sort of the third party.”

So the AT&T SportsNet deal was worth more money.

But at what cost, really?

Fans don’t want to hear about negotiations between cable companies or if Cox really has turned down countless offers from AT&T. None of that means squat to them.

All anyone who has Cox cable and wants to follow the team knows is that they’re being asked to purchase tickets and merchandise, and all the while they can’t watch games on TV.

So they’re going to blame the team, and that’s more than fair.

Do you know why this isn’t anything like the continuing mess that is the Dodgers cable fiasco?

Because that franchise has a global fan base that stretches six decades, and that’s just from when they arrived in Los Angeles. Dodgers fans might be incredibly angry over not being able to watch them on TV — I should know, I’m one — but it’s not going to cause a majority of them to root for another baseball team.

The Knights haven’t played a real game yet, for goodness sake, and they’re about to potentially alienate this large of a percentage of people being asked to follow and cheer and financially support them?

Nobody cares if you’re a third party. Fans don’t think like that.

And who in the world thought negotiations between direct cable competitors would go smoothly?

When was the last time Pepsi went out of its way to help Coke?

Cox Communications updated a statement this week that said it is continuing discussions with AT&T SportsNet Rocky Mountain about the possibility of adding the network in Las Vegas, that “as we continually adjust our channel line-up, we must consider the needs of all our customers, not just sports/Golden Knights fans.”

“We hope that we can come to an agreement that allows our customers to watch the Golden Knights, but at a reasonable cost,” said Juergen Barbusca, manager of communications and public and government affairs for Cox Communications.

Maybe that happens before the puck is dropped in Dallas.

Maybe there is an 11th-hour deal.

If so, great. It would be a victory for everyone.

Maybe this is all proven meaningless.

But from the beginning, the Knights should have let the Good of People of Whitefish worry about not having a provider that showed the team. Instead, it might be the Good People of Henderson and Summerlin.

Embarrassing.

Inexcusable.

Absurd.

Third party excuses are not acceptable in this case. Passing the buck, or puck, or whatever, is laughable.

This thing was backward from the outset.

Contact columnist Ed Graney at egraney@reviewjournal.com or 702-383-4618. He can be heard on “The Press Box,” ESPN Radio 100.9 FM and 1100 AM from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. Monday through Friday. Follow @edgraney on Twitter.

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