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Deep Blue Sea: ESPN establishing itself as go-to for hockey

Plus the Foligno brothers talk punches, Shea Weber’s unfortunate impending retirement and more in today’s news and notes.

2021 NWHL champions, the Boston Pride, hoist the Isobel Cup during a game between the Boston Bruins and the New Jersey Devils on March 30, 2021, at TD Garden in Boston, Massachusetts. Photo by Fred Kfoury III/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Maybe it’s just because last season was so repetitive, but I find myself flipping over to the ESPN app to browse random hockey games more than I think I ever did in any of the years I’d been subscribed to NHLtv. I’m pleased with the experience so far in the season. My favorite part so far, though, has been seeing the way in which ESPN is committing to the sport of hockey itself.

(For disclosure purposes, SB Nation has affiliate partnerships with ESPN+, but this post is not sponsored and does not contain any affiliate links.)

Earlier this month, the company announced that they had reached a deal to air more than 130 games from Russia’s top-tier professional men’s hockey, the Kontinental Hockey League (KHL) on ESPN+. They aren’t stopping at men’s hockey, either, carrying both men’s and women’s NCAA ice hockey. Yesterday, ESPN announced that the Premier Hockey Federation (formerly known as the National Women’s Hockey League) has also reached an exclusive broadcast deal with the streaming platform.

The streaming service — which is also available in a bundle with Disney+ and Hulu, the latter of which is also carrying select NHL games this season — is said to have nearly 15 million subscribers. That’s a massive platform on which to grow the game.

Hockey is too insular already and parting ways with ESPN for a TV deal with NBC took the sport away from the place where sports fans had already been gathering, missing out on an entire era of ESPN’s massive growth in digital sports spaces.

I really do see huge things coming out of this. ESPN is going to be the home for ice hockey, period. I can’t wait until the Boston Pride and Minnesota Whitecaps are names casual sports fans become familiar with, just by virtue of having the option to tune into them easily.

Once again, I am right in my analysis.

Read more about the PHF’s deal linked below.

News & Notes

  • Kovalchuk named GM, Gonchar, Fedorov and Nabokov part of ROC Olympic staff [TSN]
  • Insider Trading: Sharks unable to terminate Kane’s contract [TSN]
  • 32 Thoughts: NHL should create salary cap exceptions [Sportsnet]
  • The Daily Faceoff Show: Evander Kane Suspension Looms Large Over Sharks [Daily Faceoff]

Blood in the Water

  • PREMIER HOCKEY FEDERATION ANNOUNCES EXCLUSIVE RIGHTS AGREEMENT WITH ESPN+ [PHF]
  • Premier Hockey Federation games to air on ESPN+ in 2021-22 [ESPN]
  • Habs D Edmundson (family matter) to take leave [TSN]
  • Nick Foligno has no idea where Marcus learned that punch [Hockey Wilderness]
  • Hello, Watchers of Other Sports! I want YOU to become a hockey fan. [Winging It In Motown]
  • The Next Core Member to Lock Up: Josh Norris [Silver Seven Sens]
  • Which NHL Teams Should be Desperately Worried About Their Poor Starts? [The Hockey News]
  • Marc Bergevin thinks it’s a ‘long shot’ Shea Weber ever plays again [Yahoo! Sports]
  • Seattle, Long Ready for Another Pro Team, Embraces the Kraken [The New York Times]
  • The NHL on TNT brought some familiar voices and some new looks in its debut [Awful Announcing]
  • LeBrun: Why NHL players and teams are agreeing to more long-term contracts [The Athletic]

Scores and Recaps

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On the Schedule