Ex-NHLPA executive director Paul Kelly told Puck Daddy Radio yesterday that he’d “be surprised if the NHL doesn’t strike some kind of arrangement with ESPN” on its next TV contract.
After the success of last year’s Winter Olympics, the annual New Year’s Day Winter Classic, and burgeoning interest in HBO’s new mini-series “24/7 Penguins/Capitals Road To The Winter Classic” it seems as though the league is poised to make a return to the Worldwide Leader in Sports.
The NHL is likely to split its rights, a la the NBA, between the networks it already partners with, NBC and VERSUS, and ESPN. Kelly thinks the problem will be that all three will be eager to get the broadcast rights for the Winter Classic and Stanley Cup Finals.
He anticipates that the NHL would give priority to NBC and VERSUS for these events because the two networks have stuck with the league when ESPN didn’t, but the NHL playoffs could be split up across all three platforms.
The NHL as a whole is healthier financially than it was prior to the 2004 lockout, but several franchises are struggling. A national TV deal would be huge for the league, and it appears that the NHL might finally get one.
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