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Lightning opener not on Paragon

The Tampa Bay Lightning's historic first game Wednesday night against the Chicago Blackhawks will not be televised on Paragon Cable because a contract agreement has not been reached with Sunshine Network.

Paragon Cable has more than 300,000 subscribers in Pinellas, Hillsborough, Manatee and Polk counties.

Sunshine Network acquired the broadcast rights from the Lightning and has been negotiating with Paragon Cable for several months. But as of Monday, no agreement had been reached to televise Lightning games.

"The Tampa Bay Lightning is new programing for Sunshine Network. Additional costs are involved. We're still negotiating that contract," said Jeff McQuinn, president of the Tampa Bay division of Paragon Cable.

Sunshine Network general manager Dave Almstead said he was informed last Friday of Paragon's decision not to televise the Lightning's opener from Expo Hall.

"We've been talking to them since our agreement with the Lightning (last April)," Almstead said. "Last Friday they notifed us and specifically instructed us not to provide them with the game. We were prepared to go with the game. Being informed that way is a strange situation."

Both sides are hopeful a settlement still can be reached in time for the opener. Sunshine Network is scheduled to televise 35 Lightning games this season.

"We think a solution will come soon and and we believe this will be the only game we won't be carrying," McQuinn said. "It's not like we haven't talked. It's just a function of working out one or two details."

Almstead remains upbeat about televising Wednesday's game. "We've done everything we can do. We are ready to get it done," he said. "The snag is not between us and the local people. We're now dealing with someone else."

Paragon Cable is owned by Time Warner Cable Group/ATC, which is located in Stamford, Conn. Fred Dressler, vice president of programing for Time Warner, reportedly has taken over negotiations with Sunshine Network.

The Lightning's next scheduled game on Sunshine Network is Oct. 30 against the San Jose Sharks.

"Sunshine Network acquired our broadcast rights and they set the prices. It is their right to negotiate," Lightning executive vice president Mel Lowell said. "It's unfortunate for our fans, but hopefully it will be resolved quickly."

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