NHL unfairly controls teams' Web sites: lawsuit

NEW YORK Sat Sep 29, 2007 6:58am EDT

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NEW YORK (Reuters) - The National Hockey League is violating antitrust laws by seeking to control the Web sites that promote its teams, Madison Square Garden, home of the New York Rangers, charged in a lawsuit filed on Friday.

The lawsuit seeks to block the league from imposing a $100,000-per-day fine on the Garden, which along with the Rangers, is owned by Cablevision Systems Corp.

The league promised to impose the fine, starting on Friday, if the Rangers did not hand over "virtually complete control" of the Web site nyrangers.com, the suit said.

The suit said the league had violated state and federal antitrust laws by planning to create 30 "cookie-cutter club Web sites" that it will link to its main site, nhl.com, according to the lawsuit, filed in U.S. District Court in New York.

The Garden, which is not seeking punitive damages, said it had spent six years cultivating a sophisticated and popular Rangers Web site, which includes video clips from games and access to team merchandise.

"The NHL has no competitive justification for seizing the Rangers Web site, which MSG today uses as a competitive tool to generate and maintain fan interest in the Rangers in competition with other NHL teams," the lawsuit said.

A spokesman for the NHL did not have an immediate comment.

Earlier this year, the NHL fined the Garden $100,000 a day for using the Rangers' Web site to offer exclusive access to games and merchandise, the lawsuit said.

In that case, the Garden complied with the NHL's demands and removed the material from its site.

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