CBC allows NHL access to hockey series


TORONTO -- The Canadian Broadcasting Corp. said Thursday that the NHL received a sneak peek of "MVP," an upcoming series about the wives and girlfriends of fictional pro hockey players, after the league expressed concern about the drama's salacious subject matter.

Giving the NHL a preview marks the second instance of potential editorial interference involving one of the Canadian public broadcasters' marquee sport properties in as many months.

In November, the CBC, which is set to air coverage of the 2008 Beijing Olympics, was forced to edit a documentary that probed Falun Gong persecution in China after it received protests from Chinese diplomats in Toronto and Ottawa.

In the latest instance, Heather Haldane, an executive producer with Toronto-based Screen Door, which produced "MVP" for the CBC, said the drama is a behind-the-scenes look at a fictional hockey league and is not identified with the NHL.

Even so, Haldane accepts that the CBC airs professional hockey telecasts as part of its "Hockey Night in Canada" franchise, and that the NHL wanted to see whether it was associated with "MVP" in any way.

A CBC spokesman said that NHL officials screened an episode and gave it their blessing.

"While it certainly could be interpreted not to cast professional hockey players in the most positive light, I also understand that its fiction," NHL deputy commissioner Bill Daly wrote the CBC in an e-mail after screening "MVP," which is set to bow Jan. 18.

"I have enough faith in the Canadian public to see it as such," he wrote.

The early storylines for "MVP" -- starring Lucas Bryant, Kristin Booth, Deborah Odell and Natalie Krill -- include a star player who dies of an overdose, followed by his pampered wife landing on the street as his daughter ends up sleeping with the hot new rookie.