What we know about the NHL's monumental deal with ESPN

Kyle Cantlon
·Editor
·3 min read

A monumental broadcast deal between the National Hockey League and North America's largest sports broadcaster was made official on Wednesday, with the NHL and ESPN announcing a seven-year partnership set to kick off at the start of next season.

It's being reported the league will take in somewhere between $400 and $420 million per season from ESPN, a massive bump in revenue and more than double the $200-ish million per year current U.S. rights holder NBC is forking out for the NHL's broadcasting rights.

"The Walt Disney Company, ESPN and the National Hockey League have reached a historic and innovative seven-year television, streaming and media rights deal, taking the new partnership from the beginning of the 2021-22 season through the 2027-28 season," reads the statement released Wednesday by ESPN and its parent company, Disney.

SAN JOSE, CA - JUNE 12: Sidney Crosby #87 of the Pittsburgh Penguins is interviewed by Steve Levy and Barry Melrose of ESPN after his teams 3-1 victory to win the Stanley Cup against the San Jose Sharks in Game Six of the 2016 NHL Stanley Cup Final at SAP Center on June 12, 2016 in San Jose, California. The Pittsburgh Penguins defeat the San Jose Sharks 3-1. (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)
In a giant win for the NHL and hockey in the U.S., the league is returning to ESPN on a seven-year broadcast deal. (Getty)

"The visionary, first-of-its-kind agreement brings the NHL back to Disney and ESPN platforms and illustrates the unique position of The Walt Disney Company to bring the best hockey in the world to millions across its unparalleled collection of media platforms."

A lot of neat and cool PR there, but all anyone really wanted to know at a historic moment like this was two things:

Is legendary, iconic play-by-play voice Gary Thorne going to be back on the calls? And will that incredible O.G. NHL on ESPN theme song make a return?

We do not yet have the answer to No. 1, but that banger of an intro jam is definitely back in the mix.

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Here's what else we know about the NHL-ESPN partnership so far:

  • ABC/ESPN to broadcast four of the seven Stanley Cup Finals between 2022 and 2028.

  • One Conference Final and half the first- and second-round games in the Stanley Cup Playoffs each year on ABC/ESPN.

  • 25 regular season games will air each year on ABC/ESPN.

  • 75 regular season contests will stream each year on ESPN+ and Hulu.

  • NHL.tv merged with ESPN+ (ESPN/ABC games will be available on NHL.tv/NHL Live).

  • Coverage of opening night games, NHL All-Star Game and Skills Challenge, and other NHL flagpole events

  • ABC, ESPN, or ESPN2 will air a new weekly studio show throughout the NHL season.

  • Extensive highlight rights and international media rights in Latin America, the Caribbean, and parts of Europe.

As Sportsnet's Chris Johnston pointed out on Wednesday, the league still needs to negotiate and finalize a second broadcast deal to include the other three Stanley Cup Finals, etc — plus it needs to lock up another deal with a streaming partner. In the end, the NHL will bring in well over $2.8 billion from ESPN and ABC.

Just a monster day for the NHL and the sport as a whole.

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