The NHL has reportedly taken care of one half of its new TV deal, which will come with a reunion with the Worldwide Leader, according to Sportsnet’s Chris Johnston.
“ESPN is believed to have reached a seven-year deal to become one of the league’s media partners starting next season, according to multiple league and industry sources,” Johnston wrote Tuesday. “There was no confirmation from the NHL on an agreement that is expected to see ESPN get the rights to broadcast four Stanley Cup Finals between 2022 and 2028, plus streaming rights for Disney.”
A TV partner with the NHL in the 1980s, and again beginning in 1992, ESPN’s last run as a major media partner with the NHL came back during the 2003-04 season and 2004 Stanley Cup Playoffs.
The 2004-05 lockout effectively ended the league’s partnership with ESPN, as the league moved to the long-defunct Outdoor Life Network and then NBC for the 2005-06 season. But with the league’s deal with NBC set to expire at the conclusion of the 2021 season, and with NBC beginning to take steps to move away from their coverage of the sport with the upcoming elimination of NBC Sports Network, ESPN has decided to jump back in.
ESPN’s hockey coverage in 2021 includes Steve Levy and Barry Melrose, as well as hockey superfan John Buccigross, on the TV side of things, while their web coverage is anchored by Greg Wyshynski and Emily Kaplan.
Let’s fire up that old NHL on ESPN music, baby.
ESPN taking on half of the league’s upcoming TV deal is certainly interesting, as there’s a second partner yet to secure their spot. That could mean that NBC doesn’t fully abandon the NHL (they’re moving games from NBCSN to the USA Network when NBCSN ends, so maybe there’s hope), but it’s also believed that FOX has an interest in adding NHL coverage to their plate.