The NHL Is Returning To ESPN

According to hockey rumour insider extraordinaire Eklund, of HockeyBuzz.com, the NHL will announce the details of a new United States TV deal shortly.  Details after the jump.

Rumours have ESPN taking over most of NBC’s game schedule for the 2009-10 season with the Peacock network holding on to just the Winter Classic game.  ESPN2 will have a “Game of the Week” each week before the NFL’s Pro Bowl, expected to be Friday nights.  ESPN will take over the weekend afternoon “Game of the Week” after the end of the NFL season.  NBC’s current share of the playoffs are also supposed to be broadcast by the four-letter.  Versus will continue to carry their current Monday and Tuesday night games along with the all-star weekend and playoff.

The Good:  NHL finally gets back on to ESPN.  Coverage on Sportscentre and other ESPN shows can make or break a league and the NHL will get back to wide mainstream exposure with an ESPN broadcast deal.  Also, inferring what Eklund wrote, the NHL will get paid a fee from its top broadcast partner instead of having to pay it to get air time.  I’m also pretty sure that games won’t be cut-off for bullriding or horse racing pre-race shows.

The Bad:  The NHL will only get one game per week on ESPN or ESPN2 if I read the article correctly.  Ideally, I would like to see the ESPN2 Game of the Week carry on all season, even after the big network gets a hold of the weekend afternoon games.  The more exposure the game gets, the better it is for the league.  I guess beggars can’t be choosers.  There’s always the Versus games.  That is assuming that Versus and ESPN will play as nicely when cross-promoting as NBC and Versus.

The Ugly:  Except for the Winter Classic, the NHL will no longer have a broadcast network presence.  ESPN can only do so much for a league trying to find a footing in an already saturated American sports market.  Every other league has their championship and big games on free network TV so that someone will be able to at least stumble onto it.  There is a risk that might not happen on ESPN.

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