The decision by The National Hockey League's owners to initiate a lockout of the league's players over the weekend had good news/bad news written all over it for NBC. On the one hand, the network is still required to pay the league $200 million as its annual payment on the $2-billion 10-year deal it signed with the NHL last year. (If the season completely goes down the tubes, the network will reportedly get one season free at the end of the ten years.) On the other hand, if the lockout lasts only a month or two it frees the network from having to televise the early contests at a time when viewers are preoccupied with the finale of the baseball season and the kickoff of the football season. However, USA Today pointed out today that the lockout could pose a serious problem for the fledgling NBC Sports Network, which was scheduled to carry at least 90 games, beginning on Oct. 11 with a doubleheader. NBC spokesman Chris McCloskey said on Sunday: We are preparing a selection of replacement programming that includes soccer, boxing, original programming, and college football, basketball and hockey.