Back in October, I told you about the standoff between DirecTV (NASDAQ:DTV) and Comcast (NASDAQ:CMCSA) that was keeping Comcast-owned sports channel Versus off the satellite operator's service and leaving hockey fans in the dark. Versus is the National Hockey League's biggest U.S. broadcast partner.

DirecTV claimed Comcast was asking for an unreasonable amount of money to continue airing Versus, while Comcast said it had an offer on the table that wouldn't cost DirecTV a penny more than what it pays for Versus now. Whatever the real story, it sure looks as though DirecTV was -- and still is -- playing hardball with its largest competitor.

Now that competitor is about to get a whole lot bigger, with Comcast set to take a controlling interest in NBC Universal in the days to come.

NBC, coincidentally, is the NHL's other big U.S. broadcast associate. The network carries marquee weekend games during the second half of the season, including the annual Jan. 1 outdoor match billed as the "Winter Classic." NBC and Versus also happen to share broadcast duties -- and announcers -- for the NHL playoffs, including the Stanley Cup Final.

So the obvious question is: Will the Comcast-NBC partnership be able to exert enough pressure to finally force DirecTV's hand and get a deal done on carrying Versus? Comcast should have a lot more leverage once the cable giant closes its NBC Universal deal with current NBC majority owner General Electric (NYSE:GE).

Hockey fans, the season is a quarter of the way done. Let's hear your thoughts on what the merger might accomplish: Sound off in the comments box below.

Fool online editor Adrian Rush is a longtime Red Wings fan, but he has no position in any of the stocks mentioned here. Try out any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. The Fool's disclosure policy has a wicked slapshot.