It was soccer vs. hockey. But it was the fans who felt the loss.
KSL Channel 5, the NBC affiliate that has been airing the Stanley Cup Finals, was deluged with phone calls from angry viewers when it did not broadcast Game 6 on Saturday night between the Edmonton Oilers and the Carolina Hurricanes.
Instead, the station was committed to broadcasting the Real Salt Lake soccer game against the Houston Dynamo. Meanwhile, the hockey game was carried on KSL's high-definition channel, on Comcast cable system and on DirecTV's satellite high-definition system.
A KSL employee Sunday said the station "got a lot of calls" Saturday night and Sunday from angry viewers, though he did not say how many.
KSL was contracted to show the soccer game Saturday from 7 to 9 p.m. as part of an agreement with RSL to air six games this season (the cable network Fox Sports Net broadcasts another eight).
"KSL has a long-standing commitment with Real Salt Lake to air a pre-determined number of soccer games. This contract was in place long before NBC scheduled coverage of the Stanley Cup playoffs," said KSL's programmer, Michelle Kettle, in an e-mail explaining the scheduling move. "We have worked closely with NBC to move the NHL to another station in the market and at this writing, NBC has not been able to come to an agreement with another station."
KSL also offered to air the hockey game tape-delayed, but the NHL declined, instead opting to find an alternate "cable outlet" that could air the game.
Normally, whenever KSL has pre-empted programming, like not airing "Saturday Night Live" in the Utah market, NBC has arranged to have it broadcast by KUWB Channel 30, the local WB affiliate.
In Game 6 of the Stanley Cup Finals, the Oilers won 4-0 to tie the series, forcing a Game 7. That game will be televised at 6 p.m. today on KSL. Meanwhile, Real Salt Lake lost to the Dynamo in Saturday's game, 2-1.