The NHL is returning to ESPN. On Wednesday, ESPN and NHL announced a seven-year deal, which means hockey will be on ESPN for the first since 2004. There will be 25 regular-season games aired on ESPN or ABC, along with early-round playoff series and one conference final each year, four Stanley Cup Final series on ABC and more than 1,000 games per season streaming on ESPN+. NHL will air 75 ESPN-produced exclusive telecasts per season on ESPN+ and Hulu.
"This agreement clearly underscores The Walt Disney Company's leadership in the sports media landscape and serves as a blueprint for sports deals in the future," Jimmy Pitaro, the chairman of ESPN and sports content for Disney, said in a statement. "We know the power of the NHL and are thrilled to welcome it back as a significant new pillar across our platforms, and we look forward to connecting more deeply and directly with some of the sports world's most passionate fans."
NHL commissioner Gary Bettman also commented on the deal. "Not only will this groundbreaking, but the seven-year deal also enable the NHL to benefit from the incomparable power, reach and influence of The Walt Disney Company and ABC/ESPN, it sets a new standard in delivering our game to the most passionate and tech-savvy fans in sports in the ways they now demand and on the platforms they use," he said in a press release.
The NHL first appeared on ESPN on Dec. 19, 1979, about three months after the network went on air. Hockey on ESPN led to some historical moments, including being the U.S. network to produce an NHL All-Star Game in 1986. NHL returned to ESPN in 1992 after a four-year absence and aired for the first time on ESPN the following year.
"This is the kind of innovative deal that only The Walt Disney Company and our portfolio of media platforms and businesses can bring to life," Kareem Daniel, Chairman, Disney Media & Entertainment Distribution, said in a statement. "The combination of streaming leadership with ESPN+ and Hulu, along with our powerhouse ABC and ESPN networks, will bring the NHL into the homes and lives of millions of passionate fans - and help create new ones. It's a hat trick that delivers incredible value to our partner, our business and consumers.