When National Hockey League President John Ziegler goes home to Detroit, he can’t watch Wayne Gretzky square off against Mario Lemieux. Not even if he wants to.
Report: NHL Returning to Disney’s ESPN
At one time, it was hard for many hockey fans in the United States to extricate the National Hockey League from ESPN. The main network, which last carried the NHL in 2004, was a hockey mainstay. And before many of the other major leagues saddled up to the then-booming ESPN, hockey was a staple offering.
Eventually, the league left, for greener (?) ice-over pastures.
Couple of bros chillin’ at a hockey game. pic.twitter.com/kwiBvr8VVo
— New Jersey Devils (@NJDevils) March 3, 2021
Fast forward 17 years, and NHL hockey looks to return to the ESPN fold.
ESPN Getting Icy?
Reports surfaced yesterday that the network will soon lace ’em up.
Walt Disney Co.’s ESPN is closing in on a long-term rights deal for National Hockey League games that would bolster both its cable platforms and its ESPN+ streaming service, people familiar with the matter said.
An agreement between the NHL and ESPN could be unveiled as early as this week, the people said.
The pact would put games on ESPN’s TV channels and keep the NHL on ESPN+, people close to the company said.
ESPN National Hockey Night
ESPN National Hockey Night was a staple for sports fans in the US, carrying regular season and playoff hockey from 1992 through 2004. A strike canceled the 2004-2005 season and effectively ended ESPN’s dominance over hockey in the United States.
However, NHL hockey was a part of ESPN programming since 1979, when the fledgling network covered individual franchise broadcasts, highlighted by a slate of Hartford Whalers games during the 1980-1981 season.
But in 1988, SportsChannel took over TV cable rights to the NHL. That led to headlines like:
NHL TV PICTURE STILL BLANK IN MOST CITIES
And that’s just one of the oddities brought about by the NHL moving its television cable rights from ESPN to SportsChannel America.
When the sport returned to ESPN, the sport and the network’s profile continued to rise.
NHL hockey signed a 10-year $200 million contract with NBC in 2011, and this new deal is expected to be more lucrative added Barrett Sports.
We’ll keep an eye on this developing story.