Posts Tagged 'Media'

Why isn’t the NHL on ESPN?

The Worldwide Leader in Sports

The Worldwide Leader in Sports

There’s actually a pretty easy answer to the above question. The 2004-2005 lockout year, in which the NHL and NHL Players Association could not come to an agreement on the issue of an inflexible salary cap, destroyed the league’s credibility in the States. When the salary cap issue was resolved, the national television network with the most to offer the NHL was Versus, with NBC picking up high-profile games throughout the season.

In truth, that’s why the NHL isn’t on ESPN.

The more compelling question is… Why is the annual Scripps National Spelling Bee on ESPN? Better yet, why is the Lumber Liquidators U.S. Open (that’s a bowling tournament, folks) on ESPN? How on Earth is Bassmaster a mainstay on ESPN, while the NHL takes plays recluse on Versus?

Hockey should be on ESPN. Period.

Paradoxically, I happen to enjoy watching the aforementioned events, but that’s beside the point.

It’s hard to say exactly where the NHL fits in the League Hierarchy, but it can’t be lower than the Professional Bull Riders (another ESPN favorite), can it? I don’t even know how you would qualify which leagues are more ESPN-worthy, but I think it looks something like this:

  1. NFLThe King
  2. MLBAmerica’s Pastime
  3. NBACould jump MLB with all the young, marketable stars
  4. NASCARI will never understand this, but it makes loads of money
  5. PGAShould be in the top-5 as long as Tiger is around
  6. NHLEx-member of the Big Four, but is slowly turning itself around
  7. X-GamesESPN’s own. Hard to argue with its ESPN-worth
  8. Premier League soccerStill probably more popular than America’s league
  9. MLSPromises to resonate with Americans, but I doubt the numbers agree
  10. PBASadly, bowling is entrenched in ESPN culture

Both the lacrosse leagues (NLL, MLL) deserve to be somewhere on that list, but I don’t know which is more popular. I would also probably find a place for the WNBA, but they are folding. However you see it, it’s hard to argue with the top six on that list. Oh, and for those of you keeping score at home, the TWA – Turtle Wrestling Association – would be No. 14. (Keep reading…)

Colorado center Paul Stastny

Colorado center Paul Stastny

And now, with young superstars Alexander Ovechkin, Sidney Crosby, Jarome Iginla, Evgeni Malkin, Henrik Zetterberg, and even Colorado’s Paul Stastny, the NHL is gaining some marketing momentum – but still no ESPN love.

According to ESPN spokesperson John Krulewitz, there are no immediate plans to bring the NHL to ESPN. More and more sportswriters are at least discussing the possibility, though, which is somewhat encouraging.

Even NHLPA executive director Paul Kelly understands what ESPN could do for the NHL. At the Sports Lawyers Association on May 16, Kelly spoke candidly about the difference in exposure between Versus and ESPN.

NHLPA executive director Paul Kelly

NHLPA executive director Paul Kelly

“It is not ESPN,” Kelly said. “It doesn’t have a sports highlight show. It doesn’t have a lot of properties people want to tune in to, unless you are a hunter or a fisherman or you like turtle wrestling.”

Ultimately, I think the NHL gets back on ESPN at some point. It has to, right? I’m not sure I want to live in a world where the WNBA gets more exposure than the NHL. Hockey is more HDTV-friendly, has incredibly loyal fans and boasts the second-most compelling rivalry (Ovechkin v. Crosby) in sports.

This just seems like such a no-brainer. So I ask you again…

Why isn’t the NHL on ESPN?

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