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Lockout changes NBC plan

Instead of dropping the puck Saturday on the first game of its new TV deal, NBC is having to make other plans because of the NHL lockout.

The novel partnership, a two-year deal in which NBC doesn't pay for rights but both share ad revenues, includes seven regular-season games and primetime coverage of Games 3-7 of the Stanley Cup final. ABC had the broadcast rights last season.

"NBC was obviously aware of the strong potential for a work stoppage when we entered into the agreement with the NHL," an NBC Sports spokesperson said. "Because of that, we're prepared for any eventuality, including substitute programming."

This Saturday, it means the NASCAR Year in Review, The Purina Incredible Dog Challenge and then Stars on Ice. Later plans include a bicycle race, but not Arena Football League games, which run Sunday afternoons on NBC.

FLEURY BLOCKED: Theo Fleury has been barred from playing for the Horse Lake Thunder in the North Peace Hockey League.

Fleury, suspended by the NHL for substance abuse violations, is ineligible to play because of a Hockey Canada ruling last month that NHL players under contract last season can not play for the Allan Cup, the top prize for senior hockey in Canada.

"His registration has been turned down," said Brad Robbins, Hockey Alberta's manager of operations. "He was under an NHL contract in 2003-04."

Fleury was to have made his senior league debut Thursday in northern Alberta against the Grande Prairie Athletics.

"I just think it's pretty funny that it doesn't seem to matter what I do or where I go, it's controversial," Fleury said. "I am getting frustrated with that. It doesn't matter what I do. People are concerned about my life."

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