ESPN Return Brings Kraken-Sized Opportunity to the NHL

David Savard

Getty David Savard and the Tampa Bay Lightning seek a third-consecutive Stanley Cup title in the upcoming 2021-2022 season.

Tampa Bay will hang another Stanley Cup banner and Seattle will release the Kraken when live NHL coverage returns to ESPN for the first time since 2004.

With the ESPN and Turner Sports media rights in tow, the hockey league looks for growth rivaling the size of a kraken, a mythical sea monster, in the 2021-2022 season and beyond. ESPN regular-season coverage will commence with a monster doubleheader on October. 12. Two-time defending Stanley Cup champion Tampa Bay Lightning will host the Pittsburgh Penguins. Afterward, the Seattle Kraken will make its debut against the Vegas Golden Knights.

The NHL agreed to U.S. media rights with the Walt Disney Company, which includes ESPN, and Turner Sports in the spring. ESPN and the NHL struck their deal on March 10,

NHL commissioner Gary Bettman called the ESPN deal “groundbreaking” in a statement shared with ESPN in March.

“Not only will this groundbreaking, seven-year deal enable the NHL to benefit from the incomparable power, reach and influence of The Walt Disney Company and ABC/ESPN, it sets a new standard in delivering our game to the most passionate and tech-savvy fans in sports in the ways they now demand and on the platforms they use,” Bettman said.

The NHL spent the past 16 seasons with NBC Sports for broadcasting rights.


Top Games on The NHL Broadcast Schedule

After a big doubleheader to start the season, ESPN and Turner’s NHL coverage will feature the league’s biggest games and events throughout the season.

It continues with the Kraken’s home opener versus the Vancouver Canucks on October 23 followed by many more notable regular-season games. Overall, the Walt Disney Company will air more than 1,200 games this season on its various platforms from ESPN+ to ABC according to NHL.com. Broadcasts will be primarily Tuesdays and Thursday in the regular season per NHL.com.

ABC will broadcast the NHL All-Star Game in Las Vegas on February 5 followed by 10 regular-season games on Saturday beginning that month per NHL.com. The network will also host the Thanksgiving Showdown with the Chicago Blackhawks and St. Louis Blues on November 26.

The Stanley Cup Finals will notably air on ABC “in four of its seven (contract) years with ability to simulcast on ESPN Plus and additional ESPN networks” per NHL.com. Playoff games will air on ESPN and ABC per ESPN.com.

Fans can also watch out-of-market local NHL broadcasts by signing up for ESPN+

Get ESPN+.


Hall of Famer Mark Messier Headlines Loaded ESPN Talent Roster

ESPN has its own Hall of Fame talent in Mark Messier.

The former Rangers star brought the first Stanley Cup to New York in more than a half century, broadcasted on ESPN in 1994. Now, Messier will be a studio analyst for the network.

ESPN also has former Blackhawks legend Chris Chelios in studio along with longtime hockey broadcaster Barry Melrose per USA Today’s Chris Bumbaca. Sean McDonogh will serve as the primary play-by-play broadcast for NHL games on ESPN. Steve Levy and Bob Wischusen will also broadcast games for ESPN.


Familiar Sound Returns for NHL Fans

The NHL on ESPN’s ever-familiar theme song will return with the broadcasts this fall, which was called for soon after ESPN and the NHL announced its broadcast deal in March.

Composer Bob Christianson liked the news, he told The Athletic’s Sean Gentille in March. Christianson, who is also known for the NCAA March Madness theme song on CBS Sports, composed the NHL on ESPN theme song in 1992 per Gentille.

ESPN kept the theme song around for its coverage of the NCAA Frozen Four Division I men’s college hockey tournament.


Preseason Hockey Around the Corner

NHL training camps started this week, and teams will have preseason games starting this weekend. Some of them will air on ESPN Plus and TNT before the puck drops for regular season action Oct. 12.

The Rangers and New York Islanders will face off on Sunday at 7 p.m. ET on ESPN+, a matchup between two squads that finished with winning records last season. The Islanders reached the Stanley Cup semifinals before getting bounced by the Lightning in seven games, and the Rangers won 27 of its 56 games in the shortened season.

Seattle will take the ice for the first time ever on Sunday at 8 p.m. ET on ESPN Plus. The Kraken will take on Vancouver, in a re-born rivalry between the two northwest cities as The Province’s Steve Ewen described it.

TNT will air its first NHL preseason broadcasts on Sept. 30 with a doubleheader per NHL.com. The Boston Bruins will take on its rival, the Philadelphia Flyers, at 7:30 p.m. ET followed by a neutral site clash between the Golden Knights and Los Angeles Kings. The Western Conference rivals will face off at 10 p.m. ET in Salt Lake City, UT.


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