Buccigross Is “Really Optimistic” That ESPN Will Get The NHL Back In Three Years

“I’m real optimistic that we’ll be a part of the NHL plan next time,” Buccigross told BSN Denver. “I’m not in the negotiations or decisions, but the negotiations open up in two years, and the (NBC) deal ends in three. There’s no doubt ESPN (was) very aggressive last time trying to get the package, and we’ll be very aggressive this time.. and I feel good about our chances to get some.. to have games in the next package.”

 

Hit play on that ESPN on NHL youtube, close your eyes, and let the memories of NHL on the mothership pour over you. Everyone my age grew up with the NHL on ESPN. Late night with Bucci, Bill Pidto, and highlights of Lindros, Kariya, Messier, Scott Stevens decapitating people, Selanne, Lemiuex, Blackhawks highlights because they weren’t on TV, Modano, all of those Avs-Red Wings games. The 90s were a great time for hockey and ESPN carried it into your home and heart.

Then 2004-05 rolls around, we lose an entire season to the first NHL lockout. Sad times. Then the League emerges from the ashes and announces that they have reached an exclusive television rights deal with something called the “Outdoor Life Network”.  The NHL came back from the lockout with rule changes that made the game faster and better and two young super stars, Crosby and Ovechkin. And if you wanted to see highlights of them, well…tough shit. Your pregame show was usually bass fishing and your post game show was rodeo.

Slowly but surely OLN became the NBC Sports, their coverage picked up and the NHL went from being an after-thought on ESPN to being the flagship programming on NBC. NBC does a GREAT job wtih the NHL. Some of their game scheduling might need work, but the amount of coverage is fantastic. I’ve said this many times before, but there’s never been a better time to be a hockey fan. Every team has a legit star player worth watching(save for Vegas at this point), NBC shows multiple games per week, NHL Network exists and is fantastic, twitter, youtube, streaming, illegal streaming, if you like hockey and want to see every game…you can do it.

Which is why this comment from Buccigross makes me a little nervous to be perfectly honest. Aside from Buccigross and the mullet on retainer for the playoffs, nobody at ESPN cares about hockey. Something they made very clear when they fired everyone who covers hockey a few months ago as a part of their budget cuts. Obviously, if ESPN gets hockey rights they’ll market it more and sell their own programming, but no matter what the NHL will still be a lower priority for ESPN than the NFL, NBA, MLB, College Football, College Basketball, and NASCAR. NBC on the other hand…the NHL is their first born and only child. I think that’s a good place to be for the NHL.

Every other major sport splits their TV rights among multiple networks. Maybe there’s a similar opportunity for the NHL. Have NBC Sports be your flagship station, and maybe ESPN gets a game or two per week and some of the playoffs. Having games on the World Wide Leader can’t be a bad thing for the health and growth of the game, but the NHL still needs a home where they are valued in my opinion.

If ESPN is able to bring back Gary Thorne for hockey, then ignore everything I said about NBC. Thorne is the GOAT

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