The NHL The Sport ESPN Forgot

July 02, 2012 | Shawn Weimer

The NHL has seemingly been forgotten about by the major sports leader in the world in ESPN.

ESPN does own the broadcasting rights to the NBA which is the main competition to the NHL, and covering two major sports in their entirety is a difficult task for even a major network such as ESPN. While difficult most would think ESPN would give an effort to cover the NHL, however it seemingly goes unmentioned in season with very few highlights from only games that have major markets. The out of season coverage of the NHL on ESPN even gets fewer mentions even though the free agency for the NHL is opened for business and there are major names still unsigned. This is especially frustrating because when the NBA had major free agents that was the primary story on every ESPN show.  The NHL has not received the same courtsey or even at all. NHL fans are just lucky that Sidney Crosby signed a massive contract currently otherwise the NHL would have not been a topic of conversation even after the NBA season ended.

Readers should understand that it is not that the network does not care about the NHL and Barry Melrose its that the NHL has sold their TV rights to NBC Sports network (formally the Versus network), and ESPN owns the broadcasting rights to the NBA. During the big moments such as the NBA Finals that just ended all should understand coverage for the NBA playoffs will be plentiful. However, my largest gripe is that during huge moments in the NHL  such as the Stanley Cup Finals ESPN gives no love to event the clinching game which Los Angles Kings won 6-1 against the New Jersey Devils. ESPN only showed two of the goals in the entire game and 1 celebration highlights. How can a major sport championship be won and only receive about 2 minutes of highlights just seems unjust. After the Miami Heat beat the Oklahoma City Thunder in the finals the only thing on ESPN for about 2 hours were post game press conferences and reactions from the plethora of NBA analysts. Granted this was especially important because it involved LeBron James but the ESPN is always slanted I am more likely to see Bobcats vs Pacers on January 3 than highlights of Rangers Vs Capitals in the mid-season.

This problem of slanting ESPN toward the NBA was personified when the NBA was locked out until Christmas and ESPN still could not find it within themselves to show highlights of the NHL instead they would rather talk about the negotiations between the NBA and the Players union.  With sponsorship understanding I understand why there are more NBA highlights, but to only give hockey about 5 minutes in the middle of the season just seems like they are excluding several watchers who do not care about the NBA.

My solution is for ESPN to cover both sports maybe not equally but figure something out to draw in NHL fans because during the season when I want to watch hockey I do not tune into ESPN which will keep their ratings down. Whereas with some highlights NHL fans would be more willing to tune to ESPN.