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NHL playoffs spotlight Versus

This is the most important time of year on Versus for those of us who don't hunt, fish or watch bicycle or auto races, so it was a fine time for me to check in with Jamie Davis, the president of the NHL's national cable TV home.

He was upbeat, as usual, among other things saying there has been a "very tangible jump" in NHL ratings since the Olympics, with the average up 28 percent over the last month of the season compared to the same four weeks last year.

There also are fewer complaints from fans these days than their used to be about Versus, both in terms of finding the channel and the quality of its coverage.

"I think people have become not only accustomed to us but they look forward to and enjoy NHL coverage on Versus," he said.

Versus has been one of cable TV's fastest growing outlets, and plans to stick to its strategy of specializing in sports without the visibility (and cost) that other networks seek.

"Our strategy has never been to try and become another ESPN," Davis said. "It's to try and go out there and do things differently."

That includes focusing on "lesser [interest] sports but sports with passionate fan bases and super-serve them."

Versus' contract with the NHL expires after next season. What then?

"We have a great relationship with the NHL and Gary Bettman has expressed how happy he is with how we have done," Davis said. "I'm confident the relationship we have with the NHL will continue."

New York Sports