Why ESPN doesn’t cover hockey
by Matt Clinks
Does the NHL need ESPN?
It’s a question that’s been asked in every board room, sponsorship pitch meeting and press box around the NHL since the lockout. It was asked frequently during the early years of the NHL’s relationship with Comcast on U.S. cable, as the embarrassing start on Outdoor Life Network begot the growing pains of VERSUS.
It’s been asked much less frequently now that the NHL is locked into a 10-year television contract with NBC, which has helped to broadcast every Stanley Cup Playoff game in its entirety on national television for the first time in League history — something ESPN didn’t, couldn’t and wouldn’t do.
As the NHL continues to build in popularity across every metric in the U.S. — attendance, sponsorship, ratings, social media outreach — the question has now changed. It’s no longer “does the NHL need ESPN?” …
… it’s “Why doesn’t ESPN need the NHL?”
Chicago-based author and blogger Ed Sherman put the question to Vince Doria, ESPN’s senior vice-president and director of news. Doria’s answer won’t surprise any hockey fan that sees how ESPN covers the NHL on its radio and television platforms* but it’s still frustrating to read:
“If you go to our radio and television shows, there’s not a lot of hockey talk. It doesn’t seem like there’s a lot of yammer out there to give us hockey talk.”