More good news NHL fans.
ESPN....who has stuck with the NHL just as the NHL has stuck with them...has declined next year’s option to televise games. It was a $60M option to keep the NHL on ESPN.
This doesn’t mean that the NHL and ESPN are splitting. Just as in any sport with an option year...ESPN wants a better deal. And they know they have the negotiating power. With the NHL’s damaging lockout....the sport will be on extreme life support when play resumes. It will need to kiss many butts just to get back the small amount of TV fans it had. The NHL will need to get as much air time as they can....and ESPN can and has provided it. Knowing this, ESPN made a smart move.
Still, this is a big blow for the NHL. The financial hit alone further diminishes the pie that the owners and players have already been squabbling over. In the United States, the NHL still has a deal with NBC. But that deal really is nothing. NBC paid nothing up front...and only would pay anything once the network showed a profit. And they were only televising 7 regular season games and Games 3-7 of the Stanley Cup Finals. So, if the NHL was willing to get a sweet deal like this to NBC...then why would ESPN overpay??
What would Barry Melrose do a-boot this??
And the honeymoon with NBC could be short-lived. Heck, they are doing much better with the Triple Crown, golf, tennis and even Arena Football than they could with the NHL. And, NBC will have the NFL back in the fall of 2006. They don’t need the NHL as badly as they once did [though NBC Sports still is lagging].
The truth is that ESPN doesn’t need the NHL as badly either. Both grew up as partners....but ESPN has outgrown the NHL. During this shutdown, ESPN had NCAA hoops, NBA, MLB and various other sports they televised in the NHL’s place. Hey, they televised a ton of poker tournaments!!!! Sure, the Stanley Cup playoffs are usually a nice time for ESPN as they tend to be wall-to-wall hockey [ESPN2 turns into hockey HQ]...but they still are doing alright.
ESPN's NHL OG...the late Tom Mees
The ESPN option decline will really effect the financial impact of the league, due to the actually agreement and the fact that no ESPN means a very limited national NHL slate in the States. NHL fans can still get their local games on Fox Sports or whomever carries their team’s games. You can still get the Center Ice package from your cable or satellite providers. You can still get your hockey fix. Well, that is when they decide to fix hockey.
OTHER NHL NEWS....
*NJ State Assemblyman, Craig Stanley,is pressuring the New Jersey Devils into changing their devilish nickname. Stanley is a Baptist deacon. He doesn't like the satanic overtones of the team and team gear that is sold to his constituants. The Devils have no plans to do anything with their name. In all actuallity, the name derives from the "Jersey Devil", an 18th century mythical being that terrorised South Jersey citizens.
*The Phoenix Coyotes are in talks to make Wayne Gretzky their new head coach.