NHL Would Benefit Greatly From TV Deal With ESPN

ESPN is reportedly prepared to make a run at the National Hockey League’s TV rights, and I couldn’t be happier about it.

Here’s a link to the Mediaweek report.

Like a lot of sports fans, I live in one of those 35 million households that gets ESPN but not Versus, which is where the NHL currently has its games broadcast. That means for the last five years, if it wasn’t a Minnesota Wild game, I probably wasn’t watching it (except for the occasional weekend broadcast on NBC later in the season).

But an NHL deal with ESPN goes beyond just getting their games broadcast in 50 percent more homes than they already do.

ESPN is the worldwide leader. Whether you like it or you hate it, a partnership with the network automatically adds more credibility to the product. The NFL knows it. MLB knows it. Heck, Major League Soccer knows it.

More exposure. More relevance. What’s not to like for the NHL?

I really hope ESPN is able to get this done. I used to be a pretty loyal NHL fan, but I’ve been boxed out from watching any games that don’t involve the local market, unless I want to pony up the money to move up a tier on my current cable/satellite package, which I do not.

4 Responses

  1. Tom Nelson

    Personally, I hope the ESPN deal doesn’t go through. I pay an extra $12.00 a month for the primary purpose of having Fox Sports package so I can watch my UND home games for football and hockey here in Tennessee. But for the Fox Sports package, I would be relegated to watching Sioux games on streaming video on my computer. As a coincidental by-product, I can watch a whole host of NHL games on a variet of channels, including the Nashville Predators who have their own channel on the Fox Sports package for my viewing enjoyment.

    1. Chad

      Tom- other than Nashville games have you tried to watch other NHL games? I too get the Fox Sports Package and other than Wild games on Fox Sports North (in my market) all the NHL games on the regional FSN’s are blacked out.

  2. Willie

    I used to really hope the NHL would go back to ESPN, but I’ve changed my tune. The second it goes back to the “mothership” as Dan Patrick would say, it’s going to get buried and forgotten like it was at the end of its last run there. The Versus NHL coverage is deep, consistent, and very professionally done. The ratings continue to climb and Versus continues to become more visible every day. I’d try to work out a shorter term deal with Versus and see if those trends continue.

  3. Brian

    I was angry for quite some time about the whole ESPN\NHL divorce. I eventually realized it was probably for the best. I would still like to see NHL games on ESPN, but they’d have to get over their eastcoast-centric view on the league to make it worthwhile. You can witness their myopic coverage in their other sports broadcasts, too, particularly MLB. Generally speaking, if it happened west of the Mississippi, it didn’t happen on ESPN. Add ESPN’s disdain for the NHL because they lost their backyard team, the beloved Whalers (yes, believe it…they’re still smarting that Carolina has their team) and it’s clear the NHL wouldn’t get the balanced, complete coverage they deserve. Hockey fans would still be left wanting something more. While I agree that Versus has gotten better, it’s still not great coverage. I’m skeptical that the NHL would get a fair shake with ESPN ever again.

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