Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Could the NHL be returning to ESPN?

CNNSI is reporting that the NHL may be back on ESPN before too terribly long:

According to an ESPN source, the network could be interested if it saw a fit in terms of cost and content. The network would require playoff hockey and one night of exclusivity during the regular season. "It's totally in the NHL's hands," the source said.

As one media critic expressed it, does the NHL want to be No. 7 on ESPN or No. 1 on Versus? The league does indeed receive more loving care from Versus than it did on ESPN, despite the half-hour show ESPN2 used to give it nightly, but its absence from the cable heavyweight has taken hockey one step further from the national conversation. ESPN's tentacles reach so many places, and a hug by the network might help restore some luster.

This is a move the league desperately needs. For all the hardcore hockey fans out there (and there are a lot, probably more than some of the other major sports) the league has had trouble reaching casual fans - the kind who flick on ESPN and watch whatever is on; whatever ESPN is covering. By getting out there the NHL is going to gain more fans. Look at the NFL - it's near impossible to not know the biggest stories in the NFL and to it's very easy to be a fan because it's covered so much. The NFL is at the forefront of sports news because it's the biggest league in the United States but it's also the biggest league in the United States partially because it's at the forefront of sports news every night.

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