The NHL just signed a seven-year TV rights deal with ESPN. It won’t be exclusive. The NHL will be on other networks, too.
But will that change how ESPN feels about hockey? The Worldwide Leader currently gives the NHL coverage that is minimal, and too often condescending and dismissive.
Here’s what Max Kellerman of ESPN’s “First Take” debate show said about hockey:
“Listen, I don’t want to hurt anyone’s feelings, but in the United States of America, no one really cares about hockey. You know, the old joke is every town has 20,000 hockey fans, they all have season tickets, so the arenas are always sold out but the TV ratings don’t do anything. So, it’s not one of the four major team sports.”
Wow. I’m glad Kellerman wasn’t trying to hurt anyone’s feelings.
The question isn’t whether Kellerman is right. I’m a hockey fan, but he probably is, albeit in exaggerated fashion. Hockey is a niche sport.
The question is: Is this how ESPN is going to treat its new broadcast partner moving forward?
For more of my thoughts on the ESPN deal, hockey and the Penguins, click HERE.