ESPN is believed to have reached a seven-year deal to become one of the league's media partners starting next season, according to multiple league and industry sources.
There was no confirmation from the NHL on an agreement that is expected to see ESPN get the rights to broadcast four Stanley Cup Finals between 2022 and 2028, plus streaming rights for Disney.
Financial terms of the deal weren't immediately available, nor was it clear which other media company would split the package with ESPN.
NBC currently pays $200 million annually for exclusive U.S. media rights that expire after this season.
CUE THE MUSIC
I have mixed emotions on this. I think NBC has been a great partner for the NHL for the last 15 years or so. They've owned the sport. They gave it a home. They didn't have any other major rights before 11AM except for Saturdays in the Fall. They did a fantastic job. Great broadcast crews. I've liked the studio guys a lot. I don't like change and I don't like the idea of the NHL competing with the NBA, NFL, MLB, NCAA Basketball, NCAA Football, and everything else under the sun.
Having said that...it is the world wide leader and ESPN always does a great job of promoting their own products. You can't argue with their reach or distribution. NBC was only paying $200M for the broadcast rights to the NHL which is PEANUTS compared to the other leagues I just mentioned above. I assume the dollars for the NHL at ESPN are much larger than what the league previously signed. Which means more money coming in. Which means a higher cap. Which means a healthier league financially which is great because on the ice the league has never been better. Bring back Gary Thorne, bring over Edzo, put Bucci back on the deuce for NHL2Night and let's get a seat at the big boy table. I am an optimist by nature. I hope this is good for league and I truly believe this was the best option on the table since NBC already announced that they were no longer going to keep NBC Sports as a network. With the NHL Network in existence and streaming becoming more and more viable and accessible every day there will always be a way to get games and highlights even if ESPN treats hockey like the redheaded step child.